Exercise: Warm Up, Cool Down, Stretch, and Strengthen

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

Mature couple exercising in park, woman stretching.

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. Now is the best time to stretch since your muscles are very warm.

It’s best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise 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 also keep your bones stronger. Making your muscles strong also 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 weights or bands) a couple of 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, or for several days, you probably did too much.