In our fast-paced lives between work, friends and raising a family, it’s tempting to try to pack exercise into a short time period. If you only have 10 minutes, why not do a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout? While there are many benefits to incorporating high-intensity workouts into your exercise routine, it’s important to warm up and cool down to reduce the risk of injury or other health issues. If you don’t have time for this, it’s best to do a lower intensity workout.

The Warm-Up

Do you ever feel like the first 5-10 minutes of your workout are the hardest, after which the intensity plateaus and it seems easier? That’s because your body adjusts to the stress you impose on it. To exercise, your body directs blood to your muscles and increases the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide so you can perform at your best. This all requires your heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate to increase. In order to prepare your body for these physiological changes, spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up.

What Is The Ideal Warm-Up? 

It depends on your fitness level and type of workout. No matter what you do, it’s important to release tight muscles and lengthen them so they can move the way you want them to with less risk of injury. Foam rolling and stretching are good ways to achieve this.

If you’re out of shape or have a sedentary lifestyle, spend more time on your warm-up, and work on your whole body. 

If you work out regularly, you can focus your rolling and stretching on the major muscle groups you plan to work, or areas that give you trouble.

If you’re planning a cardio workout, warm-up for at least 5 minutes at low to moderate intensity on a bike or treadmill. This will increase your metabolic rate and body temperature, as well as mentally prepare you for more intense exercise. Spend more time to warm up if you haven’t worked out in a while.

If you’re doing resistance training, like weight lifting, perform at least 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises that prepare you for specific movements, such as squats and lunges. Get your body moving in similar patterns as you’ll use in your workout. 

The Cool Down

Have you ever felt dizzy or faint after suddenly stopping intense exercise? That’s because your body directs blood away from your organs to your muscles during a workout. The purpose of the cool down is to transition your body from exercise to rest. Cooling down will gradually reduce your heart and breathing rates, lower your body temperature, and bring your physiologic systems such as blood pressure, cardiac output and plasma volume, closer to baseline. 

Return Muscles to Normal Lengths

Another important function of the cool down is to return muscles to their normal lengths. When you work muscles they contract or shorten. Stretching them after your workout will allow them to move better and reduce feelings of tightness or soreness. After resistance training, focus on stretching the muscles you used during your workout. 

After a cardio workout, spend 5-10 minutes on low-intensity exercise such as walking, jogging or light biking. The more conditioned you are, the less time it will take to cool down. If you still feel your heart pounding and your breathing is fast-paced, keep moving to bring your systems back to normal.

So what if you only have 10 minutes to exercise? First, think about what you want to achieve. If you want a cardio workout, keep the intensity low to moderate so the transition from work to rest is easier. If you’re feeling stiff, maybe stretching is all you need. Or if you want to get stronger, focus on just one or two body parts such as the abdominals, back, or shoulders and allow yourself time to stretch before and after. Your body will thank you!

By Jennifer Slaboda