It’s hard to find time to exercise, so when you decide to do it you might be tempted to dive right in and get moving. While your enthusiasm is admirable, it’s best to start slow and end slow to avoid injury. Follow these tips for effective warm up and cool down routines, offered by Travis Hall, Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) with Prowers Medical Center.
In general, he recommends 5 to 10 minutes of warming up. Start at about 30% intensity, then after a few minutes, go to 50% intensity, then to 75%. At that point, you are likely ready to start your full workout. If you are keeping track of your heart rate, shoot for 50% maximum heart rate during your warm up.
“The best warm up is to take whatever activity you are getting ready to do, and mimic it at a lower intensity. For example: if you are biking, start slow, easily spinning without much effort. Then increase your speed or resistance every two minutes until you get to full speed. If you are lifting weights, focus on exercises that work your target muscle group and lift light weights, completing 15 to 20 repetitions. If you are running, start with a jog and some dynamic exercises like butt kickers or high knees to get your body moving,” Hall said.
“Warming up allows the body to prepare physiologically for the stressors that an activity places on it. It’s similar to allowing your car to warm up on a cold day,” he added.
For a cool down, Hall recommends pretty much the same routine, adding static stretching. Static stretching means no movement (for example, a traditional hamstring stretch). You are trying to make your muscles more flexible by stretching them somewhat outside of their normal comfort zone.
“Studies show that if you are 30 years old, or younger, you should hold your stretch for 30 seconds. If you are over 30 years old, hold your stretch for 60 seconds. Be patient, and wait for your muscle to relax,” Hall said.
He explains that stretching not only allows neuromuscular relaxation, it also prepares the muscle to be ready to respond to an increased range of motion. Stretching literally affects your muscles neurological patterns. The longer you hold a stretch, the more your muscle gets the message to increase its range of motion.
Hall believes that you can’t do too much stretching, and encourages everyone, especially older people, to stretch different body parts several times a week. In most instances, the more flexible you are, the less chance for injury. Stretching also helps you maintain proper body mechanics, helps train receptors in the body that contribute to spatial awareness, and improves overall athletic performance.
“Cooling down is important because it allows our bodies to begin the repair process. All exercise is a stressor to the body. Think of exercise as causing millions of micro traumas to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, arteries and veins. Without a proper cool down, we inhibit our body’s proper recovery,” Hall said.
If you are unsure where to start with an exercise program, consult with your doctor, or a physical therapist, athletic trainer or personal trainer. For more information about physical therapy and rehabilitation services at Prowers Medical Center, call (719) 336-6728 or visit prowersmedical.com.
About Travis Hall, DPT
Travis was born and raised in Lamar, CO. He served a two-year mission for his church in Honduras, Central America, where he became fluent in Spanish. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of Utah. Travis is a certified medical interpreter with Spanish, and has completed specialty training with Functional Dry Needling, Functional Movement Systems (SFMA), and is certified to place foot orthotics. He resides in Lamar with his wife, Jessica.