How can I exercise safely?

Warm Up and Cool Down

Ease into your activity.

How warming up helps you stick with exercise. When you take the time to warm up and cool down, you'll enjoy your exercise more and be less prone to get strained muscles or other discomfort.

In addition to the physical benefits, warming up and light stretching can help keep you from feeling discouraged or being too hard on yourself at the outset. If you try to launch right into your exercise pace, you may feel slow or heavy at first. But once you get your blood flowing and your muscles warm and loose, it should be easier. Allow yourself these extra moments to get your body and mind ready. It will be key to maintaining your desire to be active on a regular basis.

How to warm up. Take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up, then stretch, before you get into your program. For instance, if you've chosen walking as your activity, stroll at a comfortable pace to warm your muscles.

Next, gently stretch your arms, legs, and torso. Then move into your exercise pace.

How to cool down. When you've finished your workout, cool down for 5 to 10 minutes by walking at a slower pace; then stretch again. This time, hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.

This is your opportunity to gain flexibility and keep your joints limber. Stretching can also help prevent soreness the next day, which might keep you from exercising again. Your cooldown period is also a great time to enjoy the positive feelings that your workout generated and to pat yourself on the back for the effort you just put into it.