The rules for warm-up and cool-down are simple. A gradual progression in intensity of exertion should introduce the fitness session. At the end of the session, there should be a tapering-off period, during which the body returns to normal. Actually, authorities disagree to some extent on the need for a warm-up and cool down. But most feel that a pre-exercise warm-up should be mandatory for everyone taking part in demanding exercises. For those who have not exercised seriously for a long time and who are restarting, the warm-up should last 10 to 15 minutes. For those in better condition, the warm-up can be shorter, even as little as 5 minutes.
An effective warm-up period has several physiological effects. For one thing, it stretches ligaments. The warm-up also raises the body temperature and increases cardiovascular activity. In all such ways, the warm-up prepares the body for exercises.
The warm-up begins, for best results, with light, rhythmical exercises performed at a slow pace. Stretching and deep breathing both loosen the muscles and increase the body’s oxygen supply. Stretching also makes deeper breathing possible.
Most sets of warm-up exercises include about for or five very simple movements. The body should be sweating lightly when the set is done. A typical group of four exercises is as follows:
- The Deep-Breathing exercise requires that you rise on your toes, inhaling deeply at the same time. First extend your arms straight out to the side. While breathing in and rising on your toes, raise your arms from shoulder level until your hands come together over your head. That position should be held for a moment or two. Then lower your arms to your sides and exhale while returning to the flat-footed standing position. Six to a dozen repetitions will suffice.
- The Arm Rotation exercise calls again for extension of your arms straight out to the sides from your shoulders. The hands are then rotated in circles about a foot in diameter. Your hands should describe 20 circles while rotating forward and 20 more while rotating in the other direction.
- In the Body Rotation exercise, after placing your feet wide apart and bending forward at the waist, rotate your body from the belt up in slow circles. The upper body should describe circles large enough to stretch all the affected muscles. You can rotate five times in one direction, five more in the other.
- In the Bend and Bounce, bend far over with your legs spread apart. Try to touch your fingers to the ground three times in front of your right foot, then three times in front of the left. The touching should be done with downward bouncing motions of the body. The beginner may want to bend without touching the ground at all-just bouncing and bending low. The bend and bounce should stretch the back muscles. The tensions of the muscles should be increases daily until flexibility returns.