Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down
Done correctly, warming up and cooling down may offer help in reducing your risk of injury and improving your athletic performance.By Mayo Clinic Staff
You're ready to hit the elliptical machine or the running trails. Before you do, though, consider doing a brief warm-up, followed by a quick cool-down session when you're done exercising. Sure, a warm-up and cool-down may add a few minutes to your exercise routine, but they also might help you stay healthier.
Why warm up and cool down
Warm-ups and cool-downs generally involve doing your activity at a slower pace and reduced intensity.
Warming up may help prepare your body for aerobic activity. A warm up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system, increases blood flow to your muscles and raises your body temperature. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury.
Cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of heart rate and blood pressure. Cooling down may be most important for competitive athletes, such as marathoners, because it helps regulate blood flow. Cooling down doesn't appear to help reduce muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise, but more research is needed.
Although there's controversy about whether warming up and cooling down can prevent injuries, proper warm-ups and cool-downs pose little risk. So if you have the time, consider including them in your workout routine.
How to warm up
Warm up right before you plan to start your workout. In general, warm up by focusing first on large muscle groups, such as your hamstrings. Then you can do exercises more specific to your sport or activity, if necessary. A warm-up may cause mild sweating, but it shouldn't leave you fatigued.
Here are some examples of warm-up activities:
Feb. 06, 2014
- To warm up for a brisk walk, walk slowly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for a run, walk briskly for five to 10 minutes.
- To warm up for swimming, swim slowly at first and then pick up the tempo as you're able.
See more In-depth
- Woods K, et al. Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Sports Medicine. 2007;37:1089.
- Soligard T, et al. Comprehensive warm-up programme to prevent injuries in young female footballers: Cluster randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;337:a2469.
- ACSM's Primary Care Sports Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007:133.
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/pdf/paguide.pdf. Accessed July 9, 2013.
- Herman SL, et al. Four-week dynamic stretching warm-up intervention elicits longer-term performance benefits. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;4:1286.
- Rancour J, et al. The effects of intermittent stretching following a 4-week static stretching protocol: A randomized trial. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009;8:2217.
- Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 9, 2013.
- American College of Sports Medicine. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: Guidance for prescribing exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43:1334.
- Fradkin AJ, et al. Effects of warming‐up on physical performance: A systematic review with meta‐analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010;24:140.
- Pescatello LS, ed., et al. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Wolters Kluwer Health Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014:162.
- Olsen O, et al. The effect of warm-up and cool-down exercise on delayed onset muscle soreness in the quadriceps muscle: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2012;35:59.
- Rey E, et al. The effect of immediate post-training active and passive recovery interventions on anaerobic performance and lower limb flexibility in professional soccer players. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2012;31:121.
- Rey E, et al. The effect of recovery strategies on contractile properties using tensiomyography and perceived muscle soreness in professional soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012;26:3081.
- Bishop D, et al. Effects of active versus passive recovery on thermoregulatory strain and performance in intermittent-sprint exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2007;39:872.