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Physical Activity: Warm Up, Cool Down, Stretch, and Strengthen

Aerobic exercise (exercise that gets your heart pumping harder) is an essential part of any physical activity program. There are other components of fitness that are equally important. These help get your body ready for activity and prevent injury.

People exercising in gym with hand weights and on exercise bikes.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Good warm-ups and cool-downs can keep you from getting hurt when you do more intense aerobic activities that last 30 minutes or longer.

Warming Up

Warm up by starting your activity slowly, or walking or jogging slowly for about 5 minutes. This warms your muscles and helps your joints move more easily. It also helps protect you from injury. After you warm up, stop to stretch a little before you start your activity.

Cooling Down

A cool-down is like a warm-up in reverse. Gradually slow down your activity, or walk or jog slowly. After about 5 minutes, you can stop moving. Slowing to a stop lets your body return to its normal state little by little. During a cool-down is the best time to stretch since your muscles are very warm.

It’s best to check with your healthcare provider before starting any physical activity program.

Stretching and Strengthening

 Flexible and strong muscles are important for overall fitness. Stretching and getting stronger can also keep you from getting hurt. Staying injury-free will help you stick to your goals. Doing strength exercises for your muscles can keep your bones stronger. Making your muscles strong helps you enjoy your favorite hobbies, play with the kids, or stay independent as you age.


Do your longest stretching after you cool down, when your muscles are still warm. A short stretch after you warm up is just to loosen up a little. Light stretching is possible anytime.


Do strength exercises (using weight, bands, or body weight) at least 2 times a week with at least 24 hours of rest in between. Remember, if you make your muscles work harder than they usually do, a little soreness is normal. But if your muscles hurt after you’re done for several days, you probably did too much.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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