Q | If I have time only to warm up before my workout or cool down afterward, which should I choose?
A | Your warm-up is far more important — but not just because it warms up your muscles and joints.
An underrated benefit of warming up is that it also revs up your central nervous system, which comprises your brain and spinal cord and is responsible for coordinating your body’s movements. By warming up, you’re essentially getting your whole body ready to move, says Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, CSCS, a Maine-based fitness and nutrition coach.
Skipping your warm-up or even cutting it too short can have negative consequences, including compromised performance and injury, he explains. (For a full-body, all-purpose warm-up, visit ELmag.com/perfectwarmup.)
Although warm-ups are more important, that’s not to say cool-downs are useless. They help return your heart rate to normal and can aid in preventing postworkout dizziness.
The added bonus: After a challenging workout, cooling down can help you mentally prepare to head back to the real world and face the rest of your day.