Exercise: The benefits of warming up as part of your exercise routine
With finding time to exercise often being an issue, the temptation is to get right down to business when you have the time or inclination for rigorous activity.
While the enthusiasm is great, you would do more harm than good if you fail to warm-up properly.
A warm-up refers to any low or moderate-intensity routine that is used before strenuous activity. The primary objective of this is to attain optimal body temperature, and to prepare physically and mentally for exercise or exertion.
As such, the benefits of pre-excerise routines are not merely physiological, but can help with mental fitness and mental preparation for athletes and non-athletes alike.
A proper warm up not only prevents negative consequences like injuries and burnout, but also has a positive consequence – encouraging peak performance.
To use the analogy of a vehicle, a warm-up is like turning the ignition and then accelerating evenly for a smooth ride. Just as turning the key in the ignition kick-starts a series of processes than get the engine running, a warm up triggers a series of physiological and mental responses that help the body prepare for activity.
In addition, you avoid trying to accelerate too quickly. If you do that with a vehicle, the fuel efficiency would be poor and additional strain would be put on the engine. Even though the engine may be able to cope with the strain sometimes, it would increase the wear and tear on it much faster.
Our body is just like that. Getting it warm and accustomed to activity before increasing the workload prevents that strain on our muscles, tissues and joints.
Benefits of warming up
Improved blood circulation
Warm ups help to improve the supply of fuel and nutrients to the muscles because they improve the circulation of blood throughout the body.
Peak performance can be achieved at an earlier stage in a match situation or rigorous training because of better circulation.
Prevents/ mitigates injury
A good warm up increases the flexibility of muscles, joints and tissues.
Improved flexibility makes the likelihood of sustaining injury significantly lower.
Facilitates easier transition to more intense activity
Warming up takes the heart rate from a state of rest to a low-to-moderate activity level.
The physiological responses it triggers makes it easier for the body to adapt to higher levels of activity.
Enhances motor skills
Warm-ups help us achieve an optimal temperature – one at which our nerve impulses speed up.
In addition, utilizing mobility exercises that mirror on-field movements would improve the smoothness and efficiency of the sequence of movement later on.
Improves muscle range and elasticity
Warm-ups help to improve the elasticity of muscle fibres.
They prepare them for the increased stress and constant expansion/contraction associated with moderate-intensity and high-intensity exercises.
Improves joint lubrication
Stretching, which is a critical component of a proper warm-up, stimulates synovial fluid production. Lubricated joints are less burdened or strained and have a better range of motion.
For athletes, visualization is an important aspect of pre-event preparation and warming up is conducive to that. For example, soccer referees can warm up on the field and detect critical aspects of the environment while performing light or moderate aerobic activity. This includes familiarizing oneself with the field conditions and atmosphere, so that the referee can appreciate some of the challenges ahead.
Sharpens the mind's focus
Exercise produces feel-good hormones (like endorphins). A warm-up stimulates production of these and have you feeling good (or better) before more strenuous activity. Before a match, warm-ups are a good complement to relaxation techniques utilized.
At first, warming up may seem like a chore, but once you get into the habit, you'd realise that it makes a difference and then it'd be second-nature. When age is not on your side, a good warm up is even more critical to injury-prevention.
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