An Aerobic Bonus: Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Most people think that warming up means stretching. This isn’t true. A real warm-up provides many important benefits, most of which stretching can’t give. What’s more, stretching can often do more harm than good. Warming up aerobically is the first step of exercise; it’s the slow shifting of blood into the working muscles.

The key word is slow. Shifting the blood into the muscles too quickly can be a significant stress on the rest of the body. Specifically, the blood going into the muscles comes from other important areas of the body including the nervous system, adrenal glands and intestines. Diverting the blood out of these areas and circulating it into the muscles too quickly can be much like going into shock.

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When a warm-up is done slowly, the organs and glands can properly compensate for this normal activity. Warming up provides three important benefits:

  • It increases the blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrients into the muscles, and removes waste products.
  • It increases the fats in the blood that are used for muscle energy.
  • It increases flexibility in all the joints by gently warming and lengthening the muscles. The warm-up can be any easy aerobic, low-heart-rate activity. Begin your exercise by slowly raising your heart rate from its starting point of say, 75 beats per minute. Slowly elevate the heart rate

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  • 207 12- to 15-minute period, arriving at your maximum aerobic level only after 15 minutes.

At this point, you can maintain your maximum aerobic heart rate until nearing the end of your workout, when you begin to cool down.

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