Make Time for a Warm-Up and a Cool-Down

Each exercise session should begin with a warm-up and conclude with a cool-down. A warm-up increases blood flow to the working muscles and increases body temperature. This decreases the likelihood of muscular or joint injuries. A warm-up can be in the form of light calisthenics or performing the same exercise activity at a very low intensity. It should last 5-10 minutes, after which time the intensity of the activity can be increased to the higher conditioning levels.

A cool-down should occur at the end of your exercise session to prevent blood from pooling in the legs and other extremities. Blood pooling causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and can make you feel dizzy or faint following exercise. To cool-down, reduce the intensity level of exercise gradually, spanning about 5 minutes.

Using your pulse or heart rate monitor will serve as a guide for cooling down. Bringing your heart rate down to levels slightly above where you started would be sufficient for a cool-down (approximately 5-10 beats above your starting heart rate). Rarely will your heart rate decrease to pre-exercising levels during a cool-down, nor is it necessary.

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