What is a warm up?
A warm up is the preparation of your body for physical activity, by slowly increasing your heart rate and temperature of your muscles ready for what is to come. Usually in the form of a pulse raising activity and stretches, a warm up is vital before any physical activity as not only will it decrease your risk of injury, but it can also increase your level of performance; a review of literature discovered that out of all individuals tested who completed a warm up before physical activity, 79% significantly increased their level of performance. Here is what happens to your body when you warm up:
- Increased movement of blood through your tissues, making the muscles more pliable.
- Increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. This prevents you from getting out of breath early or too easily.
- Prepares your muscles for stretching
- Prepares your heart for an increase in activity, preventing a rapid increase in blood pressure
- Prepares you mentally for the upcoming exercise
- Primes your nerve-to-muscle pathways to be ready for exercise
- Improves coordination and reaction times
A warm up’s importance is only really taken seriously when it is already too late and you have become injured. Don’t let this be what it takes to make you realise what needs to be done, make it happen before you suffer!
What stretching is best? Dynamic vs Static.
When it comes to warm ups there is controversy between which type of stretching is best, dynamic or static. Dynamic stretches are stretches through movement, whereas static stretches are done by performing a stretch and holding it. Both are equally valid forms of stretching and each having their own merits, however it is when they are performed that can have the most effect. Studies show that dynamic stretches are better performed during a warm up before an activity as it prepares the joints for movement and muscles for activation. The most significant results were obtained from dynamic stretches including activity specific movements, such as leg swings in football or high knees in sprinting. These however are performed at a lower intensity to get your body used to the activity. Static stretches have the most benefit after exercise, as they increase the flexibility of the tissue. Not only does this prevent your muscles from becoming tight, but it also decreases levels of lactic acid which can reduce the stiff and achy feeling you get after exercise.
Think of this
Have you ever tried blowing up a balloon? If you blow it up straight away before stretching it, more often than not it takes very little air before it pops – this has the same principle as our muscles. If you do exercise before warming up, your muscles will be cold and restricted. Going straight into a demanding exercise can often cause tearing as our muscles are stretched past their limit. Warming the body up first increases our muscles pliability allowing an increased range of movement. It also allows more oxygen to reach the muscle, which means we will last longer and perform better before fatiguing.
Make sure you perform a warm up that includes a gradual increase in heart rate and activity specific dynamic stretches before you go straight into an activity. Even if it’s just gardening, anything including physically demanding work requires preparation.
For any advice on warming up or if you would like a specific warm up programme, book in now with one of our Sports Therapists. Call 01908 722 499 or visit our website www.bodilightosteopathy.co.uk