10.11.2011 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness
Suppose you were told to add an extra five to ten minutes to each of your workouts to prevent injury and lessen fatigue. Would you do it?
Most people would say yes. Then they might be surprised to learn they already know about those extra minutes, which are called a warm up. If done correctly, a little pre-exercise warm up can have many benefits to your workout and overall health.
By my observations in the gym, most people don’t warm up or do a proper warm up. It could be one of the most important aspects of your workout. Don’t think of it as adding time to your routine, but making it more efficient, productive and injury free!
WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR BODY
When you begin to exercise, your cardio respiratory and neuromuscular systems and metabolic pathways are stimulated. Muscles contract to meet increasing demands for oxygen and your heart rate, blood flow, cardio output and breathing rate increase. Blood moves faster through your arteries and veins and is gradually routed to working muscles. Your blood temperature rises and oxygen is released quicker, raising the temperature of the muscles. This allows the muscles to use glucose and fatty acids to burn calories and create energy.
I know it sounds clinical, but part of including fitness in your life is knowing how your body works and why it does what it does. All of these processes prepare the body for higher-intensity action.
Specifically, a gradual warm up:
- Leads to efficient calorie burning by increasing core temperature.
- Produces faster, more forceful muscle contractions. A warmed muscle both contracts more forcefully and relaxes quicker.
- Increases metabolic rate so oxygen is delivered to the working muscles quicker.
- Prevents injuries by improving the elasticity of muscles.
- Allows better muscle control by speeding up neural message pathways to the muscle.
- Allows you to comfortably perform longer workouts because your energy systems are able to adjust to exercise, preventing the build up of lactic acid in the blood.
- Improved range of motion. The range of motion around a joint is increased.
- Psychologically prepares you for higher intensities by increasing your ability to focus on exercise.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Choosing a warm up activity is as easy as slowing down your actual workout. By gradually increasing the intensity of your specific exercise, you are preparing the muscles for work.
For example, if you are running, warm up with a slow jog. If you are cycling, begin in lower gears. Or use a more dynamic warm up by incorporating jumping jacks, side steps and squats while using arm movements to warm up the entire body for exercise.
An ideal intensity for an aerobic warm up has yet to be established. A basic guideline is to work at a level that produces some sweat but doesn't leave you fatigued. The duration of the warm up activity will depend on the intensity of your workout and fitness level. Shoot for five to ten minutes.
Incorporate flexibility and stretching exercises after the aerobic warm up activity. The best time to stretch a muscle is after it has an increased blood flow and temperature. Stretching a cold muscle can increase the risk of injury from pulls and tears. Remember to stretch after warm up and your work out because your muscles are warm and pliable.
MAKE THE TIME
You must warm up to fully reap the benefits of exercise. Taking those extra few minutes to warm up will ensure a better performance from your body. In turn, it will make your workout more efficient, productive and best of all, enjoyable. Try this the next time you workout and see if you can lift more, run longer or ride with more intensity.
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