Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Should You Warm Up Before Exercising?

It’s tempting to skip the warm up and go straight for the workout, especially when we’re short on time.  It may save time, but it’s not the best plan to stay safe.  While it may seem logical to go as hard as you can for as long as you can, this is not a good way to treat your body. 

Students Warm Upo
Students Warm Up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A proper warm up helps increase muscle flexibility; meaning you’ll be able to stretch farther and will be less likely to overextend during your regular workout.   Warming up does exactly what it sounds like: it warms up your body.  This increases blood flow, slowly raises your metabolism, and raises the temperature of your muscles.  This makes sure they’re ready and prepared for a hard workout.  When your muscles are ready to go, your performance during the actual workout is improved.  This not only means you can beat out your competition more easily, it also means your body is doing more and functioning more efficiently; giving you the most from your workout. 

The best way to perform a good warm up is to do the activity you’re planning on doing at a lower pace.  For example, if you’re going for a run, run at half speed for 5 minutes, then ¾ speed for another 5 minutes before you get up to full speed.  If you play a sport and can’t “play slowly” for a few minutes, try doing a light workout with another activity.  Jog laps around the soccer field or run drills slowly before a game.  This will at least give your muscles some preparation for the coming activity. 

Chang-Hwa Bank Team make their warming up at 2...
Chang-Hwa Bank Team do their warm up at 2006 Taipei 101 Run Up to prevent damage and accident. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It used to be that we were told to stretch before each exercising session to keep ourselves more flexible and injury free.  When muscles are more stretched out, you’re less likely to overextend them.  While the theory is correct, we are generally taught to do static stretches, which actually does little good before a workout.  You should try to include dynamic stretches which involve moving and using momentum to stretch without going beyond your normal range of motion.  Normal static stretches, like the kind you do in gym class, are great, but should be done on a daily basis, not just when you work out.

In addition to a warm up, you should also be sure to add a cool down to your workout as well.  Just do the opposite of a warm up and slowly bring yourself back down from extreme activity levels slowly.  Just like a warm up, you can best do this by performing your same activity at a slower pace.  You should also include stretching exercises in your cool down as well.

You may not want to bother with a warm-up because you feel you just don’t have the time to add it into your routine; however, if you work out hard a little less and warm up more, it can actually give you more time to work out in the long run.  A few minutes of warming up are nothing in comparison to the time you may have to skip working out because you’re injured.  A good warm-up is always a good idea, and can keep your exercise program from getting derailed by an injury. 
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