The first component of an exercise session is the warm-up. Often, the warm-up is the first to be cut out of the workout when time is limited. However, you could be doing more harm than good if you rush into intense exercise.
A proper warm-up gets your body ready for the conditioning component of your workout. It allows for a gradual increase in your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature from the resting level. This facilitates blood flow and oxygen supply to the working muscles, reduces the demands placed on the heart, and decreases the likelihood of concurrent abnormal heart rhythms. A warm-up also may help to prevent musculoskeletal injury by increasing the elasticity of the muscles and connective tissue. The resultant increases in joint range of motion and function reduce the risk of strain and pull injuries.
The warm-up phase usually lasts between 5-10 minutes (10-15 for older adults) and involves gradually increasing your workload from a lower-intensity toward the higher-intensity level associated with the endurance phase. The intensity and type of activity performed during the warm-up are dependent upon the form of exercise used during the conditioning phase.
It is best to perform activities that will be using the same muscle groups involved in the conditioning component. For instance, if you plan on doing a brisk walk, it is best to warm-up with a slow-paced walk. Likewise, if you intend to run at a vigorous intensity, then warming up with a brisk walk is ideal. Warm-ups for strength training programs can involve lifting one set of lighter weights for each of the exercises to be performed with heavier weights.
There is still some question as to whether it is best to do stretching exercises during the warm-up phase or during the cool-down phase. An option is to do light stretching during warm-up and to do a more intense flexibility program during cool-down. If you choose to do stretches during warm-up, perform them after about two minutes of low-intensity walking or biking to warm the muscles before stretching them.
The warm-up is an important part of your exercise program and should not be skipped. It can enhance performance and make exercise safer by preparing your body for the increased demands of the conditioning component of your workout.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription/American College of Sports Medicine, 7th edition.
ACSM's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription/American College of Sports Medicine, 4th edition.
Labels: endurance exercise, strength training, warm-up