5 Benefits of Warming Up Before Exercise and Why You Shouldn’t Skip It
Warming Up Gets You Mentally Primed
Half the battle of getting into shape is having the right mindset. A 10-minute warm-up offers a chance to review in your mind your upcoming workout, your goals, and how you’ll accomplish them. In other words, it gets your head in the right place. Don’t underestimate how important that is! Your mind is more powerful than you think. A study found that people who envisioned doing biceps curls in their minds gained strength even though they never touched a weight. It’s not just what your muscles do that count; it’s what goes on in your head too. Spend warm-up time focusing on the upcoming exercises.
A Warm-Up is Safer for Your Cardiovascular System
If you were suddenly broke into a run from a standing or sitting position, your heart would have to speed up quickly Such demands place added stress on your heart and blood vessels. That’s why a warm-up is so important. It allows your heart time to the increased demands of exercise slowly and in a controlled manner. A thorough warm-up is especially important if you have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or a heart problem. Of course, you should always get clearance from your physician if you have health issues before starting to work out.
Warming Up Improves Muscle Flexibility
Another benefit of a warm-up is it increases your core body temperature. As your body temperature rises, it warms your muscles and tendons and increases muscle flexibility and elasticity. Cold, stiff muscles are more likely to develop strains or tears. So, warming up could help you avoid a painful strain or injury. If you don’t feel like warming up, just remember how inconvenient it is to injure yourself and not be able to work out. If you work out first thing in the morning, lengthen your warm-up a bit since your muscles will be cold and stiff after 8 hours of inactivity.
A Warm-Up Prepares Your Muscles for Working Together
Another benefit of a warm-up is, by engaging the nervous system and muscles, it improves communication between the two systems. Your nervous system tells your muscles to contract and “calls the shots.” Warming up with dynamic movements wakes up your muscles and nervous system and gets them ready to work together as a team. This leads to safer and better performance.
Warming Up Can Improve Your Performance
Whether you’re doing a resistance training workout or a high-intensity interval session, a warm-up increases muscle elasticity. More elastic muscles enhance your range-of-motion when you do certain exercises. An analysis of 32 studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that looked at a variety of performance criteria found warming up improved 79% of them. Plus, they found that warming up had no downsides. This analysis has credibility because it looked at so many criteria and studies and pooled the results.
What Should a Warm-Up Consist Of?
A warm-up should include 5 to 10 minutes of light exercise that targets the upper and lower body. Good warm-up exercises include light jogging, jumping jacks, arm swings, leg swings, kicks, punches, or lateral shuffles. Feel free to do a variety of these movements. Don’t push it! The goal is to incrementally increase your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles. Start at a very slow pace and gradually boost the intensity, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing. No need to tire yourself out before the real work begins. Once you’ve completed your warm-up, you’re ready to start the meat of the workout.
The Bottom Line
The warm-up might seem like a waste of time or something that steals time from the main production but it has an important purpose, to get your body and mind prepared for exercise. Doing one may even help your performance and lower your risk of injury. If you’re in a hurry, you can cut a few minutes off of your warm-up, but a warm-up should be at least 5 minutes. Now you know why warming up matters. Use it to your advantage.
NewScientist.com. “Mental gymnastics increase bicep strength”
Heart.org. “Warm Up, Cool Down”
J Strength Cond Res . 2010 Jan;24(1):140-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c643a0.
Safran, M.R., Seaber, A.V. & Garrett, W.E. Warm-Up and Muscular Injury Prevention An Update. Sports Medicine 8, 239-249 (1989). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198908040-00004.
Br J Sports Med. 2015 Jul;49(14):935-42. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2014-094228. Epub 2015 Feb 18.