Why do we warm up before exercise?
A warm up prepares us for the task ahead so that we are in a better physical and mental state. Warming up can also help to prevent injuries.
What happens to the body in a warm up?
- Our blood vessels dilate. When they dilate they are able to provide the working muscles with nutrients and oxygen to help those muscles to keep contracting.
- When our blood vessels dilate and we have an increase in blood flow. We also have an increase in body and muscle temperature. This helps to provide mobility throughout the body as well as allowing our muscles to contract more rapidly and forcefully.
- A warm up is also great for heart health. By gradually increasing the intensity of a given activity, we are able to minimise the stress placed on the heart.
- Mental preparation is also important. Warm ups can increase focus on the task ahead, improve coordination, skill and strategy.
What type of warm up should I be doing and for how long?
There isn’t much evidence on the amount of time we should spend on a warm up. But as a general rule, the more intense the activity, the longer you should spend warming up.
In terms of the type of warm up, there is conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of static stretching. A warm up should involve the type of movements you are going to perform for the given activity at a lower intensity. E.g. preparing for a soccer game might include jogging, change of direction running, passing a ball etc.