The Importance of Warming Up
Everybody is different when it comes to exercise. Some people want to hit the trails first thing in the morning without a warmup and others take their time getting their body warm to prepare for their workout. With so many different schools of thought, it can be difficult trying to decipher whether or not you should incorporate a simple warmup into your exercise routine. You might be asking questions like should you include a warmup when you're only going to be doing low-impact exercises at home or exclusively when you're going to be heading to the gym? Is warming up necessary, and what does it do for the body?
The good news is that you're not alone when asking these questions, which is why we've put together a helpful guide to help highlight some of the key benefits you can gain when you incorporate a warmup into your exercise routine, the reasons why warmups are important, and some quick warmup exercises you can implement easily.
Why Warmup Before Working Out?
Warming up essentially tells your body to prepare for exercise with light intensity or low impact movements. A "warmup" may help reduce the risk of injury and soreness by pushing your cardiovascular system to get your blood pumping and your body temperature higher. Warmups will usually be exercise specific, so for example, a runner’s warmup will look different than a football players’ warmup due to the necessity of activating the key muscles to utilize in the workout.
In a 2008 Norwegian study, researchers studied the injury rate in a thousand female soccer athletes who warmed up before workouts compared to several hundred female soccer players who did not. They found that those who warmed up sustained fewer injuries, fewer overuse injuries, and any injuries that were endured as well — were less severe compared to the individuals who did not warm up.
The participants who did warmup engaged in "active" stretching, not static stretching. What does this mean? Active stretching is doing jumping jacks or lunges to engage the muscles before a workout; whereas static stretching would be simply stretching your muscles by touching your toes or stretching your calf.
Warming up and activating the muscles in your body in preparation for a workout dramatically decreased the injury rate in these athletes.
Warming up before you begin any physical activity is important to make sure that you're actively taking steps to reduce your likelihood of an injury and prepping your body for the upcoming stress it's about to engage in. In addition, adding a warmup to your routine can help your body ease into the upcoming workout with critical internal systems like your cardiovascular system and muscle groups that will be heavily utilized in compound movements.
When you add a light warmup into your exercise routine, the risk for injury goes down due to the fact that you're prepping your body for some of the kinds of movements it should expect to engage in for however long your upcoming workout is going to be. A good example of why this is beneficial is how most of us go about our daily routine. For most of us, you might be performing the same type of activity or routine throughout the day like sitting at a desk at work. Once you get to the gym, your body is used to the idea of sitting down all day.
When you engage in a light warmup, you're essentially helping your body get ready to ease into the upcoming exercises through some light physical activity. In doing so, you can take steps to increase your flexibility and range of motion before you try to put all kinds of strain on those muscle groups and joints from lifting heavy weights or performing rigorous cardio activity. In combination with some pre-workout stretches, a light warmup before your exercise routine can help you increase your range of motion and improve overall flexibility before your workout session.
In addition to reducing your risk for injury, adding a light warmup into your exercise routine can help you increase your body and muscle temperature. When you add a light warmup into your exercise routine, you're elevating your body and muscle temperature so that it's not so cold and taught from the get-go.
When you increase your muscle temperature, you're helping ensure that your body can move in certain ways and perform certain activities without causing too much strain. As your muscle temperature increases, you're helping your muscles adapt to performing while under stress and the oxygen requirements that come from performing certain activities. Over time, your muscles will begin to grow accustomed to this new state and relax over time.
Another reason that you want to include a light warmup before your workout is that it will help you mentally prepare. We've all been there where we have our mindset on a hundred different things and the last thing that we have on our mind is the upcoming jog or weights we're about to lift. When you add a light warmup into your routine, you're giving body your mind and body a chance to settle in on the task that's ahead of you.
As you perform a light warmup before your exercise routine, you're helping your mind get set and think about the upcoming workout. You can think about some personal goals you've set for yourself, reminders as to why you are passionate about working out, and give you a chance to think about the exercises you're about to do in a few moments. In doing so, you're not only giving your body a chance to get ready, but you're making sure that your mind is in the right space to ensure that you have a productive workout.
Johnny Lee, M.D., the president of the New York Heart Association says, “Warming up, such as low heart rate cardio, prepares the circulatory and respiratory system for the upcoming ‘age- and type-appropriate target heart rate’ exercising, whether it’s endurance or sprint type of activities.”
In other words, this means that you get your body in the right spot for a productive workout by making sure that your heart rate is going to be in line with the recommended heart rate for the age group and type of exercise you'll be engaging in.
To be productive, a warmup should typically last 5-10 minutes and should be a lighter version of the exercise you plan on doing. Warming up allows the blood vessels to expand which allows the blood flow to pump to the muscles and provide oxygen to the ones that need it most during the exercise.
It’s recommended that you use your entire body when warming up; so you target multiple large muscle groups through compound movements and low impact warmup activities. You can speak with your physical therapist to understand which warmups would be the most beneficial to you, your lifestyle, your goals, and your workout routine. Each one of our physical therapists at Results Physiotherapy is here to help you succeed and get back to doing the things you love most. Each one of our licensed and trained physical therapists can help you identify some beneficial warmup exercises to add to your workout routine, ensure that you're doing them properly, and provide feedback and guidance along the way.
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Warming up also slowly gets the cardiovascular system motivated, which then puts less pressure and stress on the heart to pump blood throughout your whole body suddenly.
It's important to make sure that you don't jump from a resting state to a heavy warmup. You want to ease into your warmup in the same way that you would ease into a workout. As you warm-up, you're looking to increase your heart rate and body temperature throughout the duration of the warmup. Once you've gotten your body warmed up and your range of motion is good, then you can switch to beginning your full workout and exercise routine.
What Does a Warmup Do For Your Body?
The benefits of warming up before a workout can provide many positive outcomes such as:
- Increased blood and oxygen to the muscles that are in use
- Dilated blood vessels to pump blood easier
- Less strain on the heart to pump blood throughout the system
- Increased body temperature increases elasticity in the muscles
- Increased muscle temperature which can lead to less muscle injury and strain
- Activation of cooling methods so the body won’t overheat (sweating)
- Hormones are released which allow fatty acids and carbohydrates to be converted into energy
There are plenty of benefits associated with adding a light warmup before your exercise routine and you should make it a priority to incorporate a light warmup into your exercise routine. Whether you're looking to do a light workout from the comfort of your home or looking to incorporate some additional routines into your normal gym-goer activities, you can't go wrong with adding a light warmup.
When you combine a warmup before your workout in addition to pre-workout stretches and post-workout stretches, you're setting yourself up for success by reducing the potentially injuries you could sustain and ensuring that your body is doing all it can to have a successful workout and future workouts to come. Consult and connect with a physical therapist to learn more about which warmup exercises would be beneficial for you and your goals, and to receive the proper training and guidance on how to do them safely.
So let’s get our bodies moving and prepared for our upcoming workout! Now that we know warming up before a workout can yield positive outcomes and can lead to greater injury prevention, why not add a few minutes to the beginning of your workout and encourage your body to prepare for what’s ahead?