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The importance of warming up

warming upPhoto: Shutterstock

The key to a great exercise session or workout often lies in a good warm-up, a series of stretches or movements that you should do before starting a physical activity.

To understand what makes an effective warm-up, we should first have an idea of what this precursor activity does to our body.

Most warm-up sessions comprise a combination of light cardiovascular exercises and stretching. These cardiovascular exercises gently prepare the body for the bout of physical activity that will soon follow by gradually increasing your breathing and heart rate. Circulation to your muscles, tendons and ligaments are also improved. This in turn loosens the joints and encourages blood flow to the muscles, supplying them with more oxygen.

Stretching, on the other hand, warms up the muscles to prevent injury and prepare them for the movements they will be required to carry out during the activity. Perhaps the most important reason for doing a warm-up is to prevent injury during exercise and stretching does that job perfectly. It reduces the chances of tears or strains, as your ligaments and tendons are more flexible after a good stretch.

Additionally, an overlooked reason to warm up is its function as mental preparation. It enables your mind to ease into the workout and is especially useful for more strenuous forms of exercise.

It goes without saying that it could be potentially dangerous if one were to start a workout or an exercise without adequate warm-up, as it may lead to injury or unnecessary fatigue and stress on your muscles and heart.

Be sure to set aside five to 10 minutes and incorporate a warm-up into your next workout regime. To ensure a safe and effective warm-up, here are some do’s and don’ts:

Do’s:
  • Avoid injured muscles or areas. You do not want to aggravate them and possibly inflict more damage.
  • Tailor your warm-up to suit your workout by involving the muscles you would use later on.
  • Relax and breathe slowly and evenly.
  • Drink up. Staying hydrated is important for any form of exercise, and will help your muscles perform at their optimum levels.

Don’ts:    
  • Avoid investing too much effort; a warm-up may cause mild sweating, but it shouldn't leave you fatigued.
  • Don’t rush through your warm-up. Allow your body to loosen up and your heart rate to rise gradually.
  • Avoid holding your breath during a stretch, as this will tense your muscles.