You may be among the vast majority of the population who is misinformed about warming up and stretching before exercise. Whether you mistakenly assumed or were erroneously instructed to stretch out as a precursor to your workout, you may have been putting your muscles at greater risk than ease. Many individuals think that they are moving or using their muscles during the workout so they need to stretch them before moving; however, research indicates that warming up is a necessary first step to protect the muscles and body.
Why Should You Warm Up First?
Research indicates that there are numerous reasons to warm up prior to stretching, but the fact of the matter is you need to increase the temperature of your muscles before stretching to prevent straining them. In fact, you can view “warming up” in a very literal sense. You warm up your muscles to allow them to move more easily and reduce your risk of injury. Stretching your muscles while cold is risky and counterproductive.
Warming up prior to stretching acts to loosen your muscles and increase their overall flexibility. It also increases blood flow throughout your body and enlarges your blood vessels to bring more oxygen into your muscles. This practice also functions to flood your heart with plenty of oxygen to reduce the overall stress placed on your heart while working out. Additionally, making sure your body is warm first will improve your range of motion, slowly increase your heart rate, and diminish your chance of developing cramps.
How Long Should You Warm Up?
So now that you know that you need to warm up, your next question is probably, “How long?” The short answer to that question is, “That depends.” Your body needs a different level of warmup depending on several different factors:
- Your current fitness level
- The intensity of your workout
- Your current level of flexibility
If you are someone new to exercise, you should warm up for roughly 10 minutes. However, if you are more advanced and are already at a higher level of fitness, you can most likely get by with a 5 minute warm up.
If you prefer not to just base your workout on time alone, then tune in to your body. Once you start feeling noticeably warmer and your heart rate rising slightly above normal, you should be good to go.
While you can choose your warm up method based on your workout preferences, walking fast or jogging slow are the most commonly practiced warm ups. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be jogging or walking, as there are numerous ways to warm up. The important thing is to keep your warm up aerobic, do it before you stretch, and make sure it helps increase your internal temperature.
What Are the Best Stretches?
Always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. If you have questions about what are the best stretches or if you’re performing them properly, contact one of our sports physical therapists at TurningPoint Medical Group in Colorado Springs, CO. We will sit down with you and discuss your fitness goals and current health. We can then recommend and train you on proper warm ups, stretches, and exercises for your particular situation. This best assures optimal performance and reduces the chance of injury.