The Importance of Warm-ups Before Exercise

You heard the universal recommendation to warm up before you work out. But if you’re like many people, you may pass over this step because you feel pressed for time, or think that it’s not really that important. So why don’t more of us warm-up? Good question!

Maybe warm-ups need a good ad campaign. An ad for warming up would tell you that it burns calories, enhances your fat-burning potential, prevents injuries, and more. By not warming up, you do miss out on many important advantages.

For your warm-up activities, it is recommended to do 10 minutes of light aerobic type activity, consisting of several different moves, to prepare your body for circuit training. You will move at a leisurely pace, say 50% of your maximum heart rate. In that 10-minute span of time, you can expend up to 100 calories. When it comes to exerting energy, every little bit counts.

Throughout the full 10 minutes off your warm-up, your body will tap initially into sugar for energy. By the time you begin your workouts, you will get less sugar to spare, so your body will dip into its fat stores for energy much earlier. The advantage, you guessed it, more fat is burned.

Think about what it’s like to start your car’s engine when it’s cold. It performs poorly, right? Well, muscles are the same way; they don’t work well until they reach the proper temperature. Warming up also increases blood flow to your tissues, so that more oxygen and more nutrients are channeled to your muscles for fuel. Increased blood flow also helps remove waste products from muscles, such as lactic acid, that makes you want to quit. Finally, your warm-up speeds up neural responses. Nerve impulses travel faster, improving your motor skills, coordination, reaction time, and agility. Warmed up muscles move faster and generate more force than cold muscles and they burn more energy which means your body is better primed to lose weight.

If your muscles are cold and stiff and you go full throttle into your exercise routine, you are inviting injury on a couple of fronts. Your muscles shouldn’t be used until they are warm and pliable. But in addition, when you warm-up properly, raising your muscle temperature your body begins to lubricate your joints for easier movement and your muscle tissue becomes more elastic. This is important for strength training exercises in which you will need to move weight or resistance through a full range of motion. All of these psychological responses to reduce the risk of overstretching or tearing muscle fibers and connective tissue.

Also, if you begin a workout without a warm-up, you may provoke an irregular heart rhythm. In studies of healthy people, abnormal heart rhythms were found in those who exercised intensely without warming up but disappeared when an appropriate warm-up was included in their exercise routine.