Preparing for Physical Activity

Optimizing a body’s condition is the best way to begin moving this Monday. Good nutrition and hydration ensures that the body will perform well in a variety of environments and have enough fuel to comfortably complete the exercise. Getting a good warm up before and a cool down after working out can help prevent injury and get the blood and muscles ready to perform. Adding stretches to a workout routine can help improve balance and flexibility.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is an essential part of conducting a healthy physical fitness routine. Water is essential for the human body to function and makes up about 60 percent of body weight. The body depends on water to help get rid of wastes, regulate temperature, keep joints healthy, and protect sensitive tissues. Dehydration is a condition where the body cannot operate optimally due to a lack of water and can make an individual tired and drained of energy.1

Being properly hydrated helps the body to function at its best level; however, during exercise, the body loses water through breathing and sweat. The body’s performance can significantly decrease if it becomes dehydrated, so rehydration is an important part of longer exercises and it is important to consume water post workout.2

The amount of water a person needs varies by body size, the weather and climate, type and duration of exercise, and any medical conditions the person may have. Feeling thirsty is a sign of dehydration, but an easy way to monitor an individual’s hydration level is checking the color of their urine. Pale or clear urine is an indication of being well hydrated, wear as a dark yellow color is a sign of dehydration and the individual should consume fluids.3

Water is a great option for getting fluids. Although water is a prime source of hydration, fluids are also contained in foods, especially those like soups, tomatoes, and melons. Sugar-sweetened beverages add hundreds of calories and cost more than water.4 Sweet drinks can also be hard on the stomach if the individual is dehydrated. And drinks with caffeine can act like a diuretic, causing fluid loss.5 Individuals should try to get over 15 cups of fluid if they are male or 11 cups if they are female.6


Healthy foods can help power healthy workouts. Proper nutrition can help to optimally fuel the body before the workout and re-fuel after. Fueling the body before a workout ideally takes place two hours before the activity. Hydrating with water and eating healthy carbohydrates, like whole grains or fruit, gives the body accessible calories to burn. Too many fats or proteins consumed before a workout should be avoided, since they digest slower and may divert oxygen away from muscles to aid digestion. Post workout meals should include some protein to help rebuild muscles.7

Warm-up and Cool-down

Warming up and cooling down helps the body get ready for an activity and helps the body recover from exercise. Preparing the body for exercise can help reduce the risk of injury, gradually increases the heart rate, and may help reduce muscle soreness. A good way to warm up is by doing the intended activity at a slower pace and lower intensity. For example, if a run is the intended activity, a 5-10 minute walk before and after would help warm up and cool down the body. Warm ups can also get the body ready for stretches or yoga poses.8 Dynamic movements can also help warm up the body. These movements allow the body to warm up and stretch at the same time through different compound body motions. Arm circles, hip circles, lunges and heal to toe walking are examples of dynamic movements.9 Cooling down allows the body to gradually lower the heartrate and can help reduce muscle soreness. After a period of physical activity walking for 5 minutes and stretching helps the body to progressively recover.10


Stretching can help improve range of motion and flexibility, improve performance, and decrease the risk of injury. However, as with any exercise, proper technique should be used to avoid potential injuries. The muscles should be warmed up through dynamic movement, walking or biking. Stretching is also a good activity to do after working out.11

Here are a few tips for safe stretching:12

  • Breathe normally and relax.
  • Stretch slowly and smoothly, no bouncing
  • Stretch and hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat the stretch 3-5 times
  • Do not lock out your joints, maintain a slight bend
  • There may be a tightness or pull in the stretch, any pain means the stretch is too far.

In order to improve flexibility, one should aim to stretch all of the major muscle groups every day. As one progresses, they should see improvements posture, circulation, and balance while relieving pain and stress.13

Monday is a great day to begin preparing the body for getting moving. Proper hydration and nutrition and warm up/cool downs coupled have a number of benefits. Over time, Monday can generate a healthy habit of getting a body ready for physical activity.

For more tips and resources to promote Move It Monday, click here.

[1] Mayo Clinic Staff. 2017. Water: How much should you drink every day? The Mayo Clinic.

[2] Shaw, G. Water Tips for Efficient Exercise. WebMD.

[3] Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy. 2014. American Heart Association.

[4] Water & Nutrition. 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[5] Staying Hydrated – Staying Healthy. 2014. American Heart Association.

[6] Mayo Clinic Staff. 2017. Water: How much should you drink every day? The Mayo Clinic.

[7] Food as Fuel Before, During and After Workouts. 2015. American Heart Association.

[8] Mayo Clinic Staff. 2016. Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down. The Mayo Clinic.

[9] Melone, L. 7 Dynamic Warm Ups. The Arthritis Foundation.

[10] Warm Up, Cool Down. 2014. American Heart Association.

[11] Mayo Clinic Staff. 2017. Stretching: Focus on flexibility.

[12] Flexibility Exercise (Stretching). 2018. American Heart Association.

[13] White, M. 2016. Stretching for Seniors: 7 Simple Moves for the Not-So-Flexible. SilverSneakers.