I’m sure you already know why physical exercise is an important part of a wellness lifestyle. What many people don’t pay sufficient attention to, though, is the importance of warming up before working out. Whether you engage in the gentler forms of exercise such as Pilates and Yoga or you just like to pump iron in the gym, warming up is as critical for your health and wellbeing as the workout itself. In fact, without warming up sufficiently, there is a risk that you will actually harm yourself during exercise.

In this article, I will explain exactly why it’s important to warm up before working out and also describe some popular warm-up exercises that you can use.

Why Warm Up?

First – A word of caution. Warming up should not be confused with stretching exercises. A warm up is the very first thing you should do when you begin a workout session. If you don’t warm up, even your initial stretching exercises can cause injury. Indeed, forms of exercise such as Pilates are heavily focused on stretching and balance, but you should still spend time warming up before you commence.

If you think of your body as an organic machine, it may help to understand why warming up is so important. No machine performs at its best when cold. Warming up, gets your blood circulating (like the oil in a machine) and loosens up your tendons and ligaments. Your muscles too, need to be warm if they are not to suffer damage from the wear and tear of vigorous exercise. Your body, just like a machine, cannot run smoothly under exertion when the necessary parts are cold.

Sounds simple enough, right? Actually, though, the physiological changes that take place when you warm up are pretty complex. Here are seven things that happen to your body during a warm-up routine:

  • Oxygen in your bloodstream breaks down, enabling it to be delivered to your muscles
  • Your body temperature increases
  • Blood begins to flow to your muscles, delivering energy-producing nutrients
  • Blood flows to your heart, helping it to deal with the extra workload of physical exercise
  • Your muscles loosen up
  • You begin to sweat, which is your body’s way of regulating temperature
  • Your nerve impulses speed up

By triggering all these changes within your body, the warm up prepares your cardiovascular system, muscles, tendons, and ligaments for more vigorous exercise to come. In turn, your risk of getting sore, suffering cardiac abnormalities and incurring injuries is greatly reduced. This is particularly important if you are exercising as part of rehabilitation after sickness or surgery or as part of a pain management program for backache or neck pain. Exercising without a warm up can result in setbacks to your recovery and cause more pain, rather than less.

Ways to Warm Up

One of the secrets to doing anything well, is to understand why you are doing it. So now you understand exactly why you need to warm up, it might be helpful to know some of the popular ways in which you can do so. The following exercises will get your organic machine running sweetly and ready to take on the rigors of your workout:

Run on the spot for one minute – While running on the spot, make sure you bring your knees up to hip height and pump your arms. Move as quickly as your body will allow.

Arm Circles – Stand with your feet apart (around shoulder-width apart). Extend your arms out to your sides. Keep your arms out at shoulder height. Now do 20 small forward circles with your arms, keeping your shoulders down. Follow this immediately with 20 small backward circles.

Rope Jumping – Perform a few consecutive minutes of rope jumping. Just do what you can manage, although the ideal is around five minutes.

Stork Fly – I don’t know if this is how storks actually fly, but as dynamic as this warm-up exercise sounds, rest assured you don’t actually have to get airborne. Just follow these two simple steps:

  1. Stand with your feet together and extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Keep the palms of your hands face up. Raise your left knee so your thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your hips level. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  2. Keeping your left knee lifted, bend forward at your waist, extend your left leg backward and raise your arms overhead until your arms, torso, and left leg are parallel with the floor. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and then slowly return to the position in step 1. Finally, switch legs and repeat steps 1 and 2.

Learn to Warm Up with the Experts at OCWP

Of course, the best way to ensure you are warming up and exercising correctly is with some expert guidance. This is especially important if you are exercising for back pain relief or other medical/recuperative reasons. Here at Orange County Wellness Physicians Medical Center, we offer Professional Pilates instruction to help you safely and effectively learn this specialized and very effective workout method.

Our instructors will show you how to warm up and workout with Pilates in a friendly environment. Once you have begun to learn the basics, you can workout at home as well as under our expert tuition here at the center. Why not book an appointment online to discuss your workout program? Alternatively, you can just give us a call at 866-303-9355.