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Save Yourself Some Pain; Warm Up Before Your Workout

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Faisal Al-Alim, MD
Sports Medicine

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In our rush-rush world, it’s not easy to find time to exercise every day. So it’s no surprise that you want to start exercising without warming up. Besides, you might figure, is a warm-up really that important?

The answer: yes. A proper warm-up may make the difference between getting hurt and not getting hurt.

“Nearly 90 percent of all sports injuries don’t require surgery, and a great many of those injuries are preventable,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network sports medicine physician Faisal Al-Alim, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. “Warming up before physical activity is your first line of defense against injury.”

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), warming up properly allows your body temperature to rise slowly. That leads to:

  • Increased efficiency in calorie burn
  • More vigorous, quicker muscle contractions
  • Better oxygen delivery to the muscles
  • Improved muscle elasticity

All of those factors result in better overall muscle control and reduce the risk for soft-tissue injury (ligaments, tendons and muscles). Warming up helps your body adapt much better to your mode of exercise and allows you to optimize your workout.

Try a ‘dynamic’ warm-up

The ACE recommends a “dynamic” warm-up lasting five to 10 minutes. It should include a few minutes of light aerobic activity such as jogging in place or a quick spin on an exercise bike, then some motion stretching (such as knee lifts and arm circles) and static stretching (holding a stretch in a stationary position, concentrating on the muscles you will use most in your workout). This dynamic warm-up should go a long way in preventing injury and post-workout soreness.

And when you’re done…

“After exercise, it’s just as important to have a cool-down,” Al-Alim says. “Do some stretching and walking to allow your heart rate to slowly come down.”

Al-Alim says the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine strongly urges allocating sufficient time for warm-up and cool-down. There are a variety of exercises for each. You can ask a qualified physician, fitness professional or athletic trainer for suggestions on what types of exercises would be most beneficial for you.

A good warm-up and cool-down will lead to better, safer workouts. “You’re doing yourself a favor,” Al-Alim says. “And you could be saving yourself a doctor’s visit too.”