Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the importance of warming up before exercise. We’re told to do it before a workout or sports practice, even before going on something as simple as a walk. However, chances are you’ve probably skipped your warm-up once or twice and even reconsidered the hype over it.
Is there really any stock to warming up before a physical activity? If you want to roll the dice and increase your risk for injury, then you may just want to skip the warm-up. However, if you want to stay injury-free and even increase your performance, then you may want to reconsider forgoing it the next time you’re anxious to get into your workout.
Yes – Warming Up Matters
The results are in and numerous studies point to the numerous benefits of beginning your workout or physical activity with a proper warm-up.
Warming up is important for adults, but recent studies point to the reality that it’s even more important for children. A study published in the Sports Medicine journal reported that a proper warmup for children reduced soccer injuries by 50%. That’s a huge decrease in risk when injuries are on the rise for children involved in sports. Even the severity of injuries decreased by a whopping 74% according to the study, with a full recovery being better and quicker.
Warm Up For Better Performance
Some people might believe that it’s best to save all your energy for when it comes time to actually perform. After all, it would seem logical to believe that any energy used for the warm-up is taking away energy for performance. People are right to believe to a certain extent. If you warm up improperly – i.e. being at a higher intensity than necessary – you’re probably exerting more energy than you actually need to for warming up. Not only is a high-intensity warm-up bad for your performance, but it could actually heighten your risk for injury.
However, if you warm up properly, you will also increase your efficiency and perform at a higher level. Researchers found that warming up improved athletic performance for 79% of participants.
How does warming up increase performance?
It prepares your body for exercise. Warming up increases your body temperature, which enables your muscles to contract and relax faster than when the muscles are working from a “cold” state. When muscles can contract faster, they work more efficiently. Furthermore, you increase your blood flow, especially to muscles, which means those muscles are receiving the necessary oxygen to work faster and better.
What Warm-up Is Best?
Contrary to popular belief, not all warm-ups are equal. In fact, the intensity of the warm-up and the exercises are all determined by your work out and your current fitness level. For example, researchers found that a lower intensity warm-up was better for boosting cycling performances than other types of warm-ups.
In general, your warm-up should consist of gradually increasing the intensity of exercises. Walking, cycling, and other full range of motion exercises done at a low-intensity are ideal for most workouts and activities. You should also add dynamic stretching to your warm-up. Dynamic stretching is different than static stretching. With dynamic stretching, you are using controlled movements to improve range of motion and prepare muscles for contraction and relaxation. Instead of holding a stretch for 30 seconds or more like in static stretching, you’re moving while stretching. All warm-ups should have the goal of gradually increasing your heart rate and blood flow while preparing your muscles for exercise.
Even though activity determines your warm-up, it should be done within 15 minutes of the actual activity and should last only a few minutes. Studies show that to reap the benefits of a warm-up, it must be done within 15 minutes of your workout and should not exert too much energy.
Before starting your workout, always begin with an adequate warm-up that prepares your body for the stress of your activity. Without a proper warmup, you are putting yourself at risk of injury and lowering your capacity to perform at a higher level. Want to reach a new fitness level or stay injury-free? Ensure you warm up first and foremost.