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Written by Morgan Schaack, RD, LD
on January 24, 2019

Quick! You only have 30 minutes to get a good sweat session in before heading to work. What do you do: A) Jump right into your workout or B) take 5 minutes to loosen your joints and get your heart rate up?

If your answer was “B”, then you are correct! But you may be asking yourself, what’s the point of warming up if I am stretched for time and trying to optimize gym time?

Warm-Up: The Definition

First let’s define a warm-up. A warm-up is a period before your workout that you spend preparing your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate and the blood flow to your muscles. A warm-up is different from stretching because the sole purpose of warming up is not to only increase flexibility, but to also prepare your body for what is ahead.

By warming up before any type of exercise, you are reducing the strain on your heart and muscles. And although warming up and stretching are different, I still recommend you do some light, dynamic stretches before any physical activity.

cardio vs weightTypes of Warm-Ups

Warming up can be whatever you want it to be as long as you are getting your heart rate up. I recommend patients take a 5 to 10 minute walk or, if at the gym, spend time on another cardio machine such as the elliptical or recumbent bike. Remember a warm-up is not supposed to be intense. Therefore, do whatever you feel comfortable with at a level you see fit.

Warm-Up: The Benefits

1. Increase Performance

When you spend time warming up, you are increasing the blood flow to your muscles and thus increasing your muscular temperature. As the temperature of your muscles rise, more oxygen is available, which leads to a rise in endurance. Similarly, muscle elasticity improves resulting in enhanced speed and agility.

2. Less Stress on the Heart

As stated above, warming up increases blood flow to the heart. This is a result of the dilation of blood vessels. Ultimately, this dilation puts less stress on the heart, resulting in a safer workout.

3. Decrease Injuries

When your muscles are warmed up, they relax faster after being contracted. This reduces the risk of over-stretching or causing injuries.

4. Mental Preparation

Spending a few minutes before your workout to loosen your muscles gives you time to mentally prepare for the activities ahead. I never miss a warm up because this is my time to pop in my headphones, crank up my music, and get ready to crush it!

So now that you know the benefits of warming up, don’t skip it next time you begin your workout! Make it a priority now to reduce complications later.

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