How to Warm Up before Exercise

Each exercise bout should be pre­ceded by an 8- to 10-minute warm-up and followed by a cool-down period of equal time. Both are integral com­ponents of an exercise program. Proper warm-up and cool-down con­tribute to performance and the exer­ciser’s health and safety. Sandwiched between these two components is the actual exercise program – in this article, walking and jogging.

The warm-up is designed to pre­pare the body gradually for more vig­orous exercise. In approximately 10 minutes of warming up, the muscles to be involved in the activity are heated and the heart rate is allowed to increase slowly toward the rate expected during the actual workout. Rhythmic calisthenics, walking, slow jogging, and other low-intensity activities can be used during the warm-up to prepare the individual for exercise of greater intensity. These activities smooth the transition from inactivity to activity with minimum oxygen deprivation to the heart, muscles, and organs.

Without a proper warm-up, the heart rate would rise rapidly, forcing the body to rely upon short-term sup­plies of fuel to generate the energy needed for exercise. Circulation does not increase in proportion to heart rate; during a brief interval (about 2 minutes) the heart and other muscles are not fully supplied with oxygen. Early studies showed that sudden strenuous exertion without the benefit of a warm-up period produced abnor­mal cardiac responses that reflected oxygen deprivation, ventricular arrhythmias, and left ventricular dys­function. Later studies of healthy subjects have not confirmed the same cardiovascular abnormalities as previous studies. In fact, even stable post-myocardial patients (heart attack patients) who had been treated with beta blocker medication did not respond abnormally to sudden exertion.

At the worst, the potential for in­ducing a cardiovascular event during sudden physical exertion may be higher without warming up. At the least, it produces significant discom­fort during the first 2 to 3 minutes after beginning exercise, and it in­creases the likelihood of incurring a musculoskeletal injury. This is a potentially dangerous time, particu­larly for those whose circulation is compromised by heart and blood vessel disease.

When the cardiorespiratory warm-up phase is complete, the muscles are stretched. At this point the walker or jogger should be sweating—indicating that the core temperature might be elevated slightly and muscle tempera­ture is substantially elevated. Both responses enhance performance and reduce the risk of physical injury. Muscles are stretched more effectively when they are heated.

The preferred method for enhanc­ing and maintaining flexibility of the joints and elasticity of muscles and connective tissue is static stretch­ing. This consists of slow, controlled movements and desired end positions that are held for 10 to 30 seconds. The desired end position should produce a feeling of mild discomfort but not pain. If the stretch is painful, you are stretching too forcefully and are in danger of exceeding the elastic properties of muscles. Static stretch­ing is effective because:

  • It is not likely to cause injury.
  • It produces no muscle soreness.
  • It helps to alleviate muscle soreness.
  • It requires little energy.

Static stretches are effective and convenient, they do not require the assistance of a partner, and no equipment is necessary.

Another technique for increasing flexibility is proprioceptive neuro­muscular facilitation (PNF). Physical therapists have used PNF stretching for many years with patients who have neuromuscular dis­orders. It is more effective than static stretching in improving flexibility, but it does have limitations.

1. Most PNF techniques require the assistance of a partner who is com­petent in this system, so as not to injure the exerciser.

2. Using PNF techniques takes more time.

3. PNF is associated with more pain and muscle stiffness.

4. PNF techniques are more complex and more difficult to learn than static stretching procedures.

For these reasons, even though PNF stretching is slightly more effective than static stretching, it is not the preferred method.

Dynamic or ballistic stretching is not recommended because it forces muscles to pull against themselves. This type of stretching entails bounc­ing and bobbing movements that acti­vate the myotatic reflex. Each rapid stretch sends a volley of signals from the stretch reflex to the central nerv­ous system, which responds by order­ing the stretching muscles to contract instead.

If you have dozed off while sitting in a chair, you probably have experi­enced the results of the stretch reflex responding to rapid stretch. Your head drops forward as you nod off, causing the neck muscles to stretch rapidly. This sudden dynamic stretch sets in motion the reflexive process that re­sults in rapid contraction of the neck muscles and a quick return of the head to the upright position. The rapid movements in opposite direc­tions can result in muscle soreness and possible injury.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.