You still need to warm-up, even when it’s warm out

It’s the middle of the summer and you want to get back into shape, train for a race, or just begin a healthy lifestyle program like you heard about on a TV or read online.  It’s 99 degrees outside, and your body temp is 99 degrees, but you’re still not ready to get started.  Even though the temperature outside has risen, doesn’t mean your body has.  It is important to make sure to warm up when exercising or performing any physical activity.  It helps to reduce the risk of injury by allowing sufficient time for your muscles to receive proper blood flow and oxygen, and increasing body temperature.  When proper dieting accompanies exercise, warming up allows for ample nutrient passage to your muscles.  There is no specific amount of time that someone should perform warm up exercises, but the American Physical Therapy Association recommend between 5-10 minutes before performing your exercise or sports for sufficient body systems to be stimulated.  Warming up decreases the amount of aches and pains that result during and after an activity.  The warm up encompasses preparation of many systems including the neuromuscular system, cardiovascular system, and musculoskeletal system and the respiratory system.  All of these allow the body to prepare for the physical demands that will be placed on it.  Once you are sufficiently warm and your muscles reach optimal extensibility and pliability, muscles are ready to respond to impact and rigor of activity versus old muscles will not extend and contract as efficiently as the activity requires, resulting in a decreased chance of injury.  Warm ups should be done in a gradually building intensity.  Warming up results in a decrease in lactic acid build up, release of adrenaline, increased joint mobility, increased enzyme activity, and increased muscle metabolism.

Warming up is not simply physical, but mental.  Taking this time to mentally prepare, makes you aware of the task at hand; putting your mind at ease to conquer this 5 mile run, 400 meter swim, or 20 mile bike ride.  A decreased slope or incline in change of blood pressure and heart rate results, improved coordination, and improved connection between nerves and muscles.  Exercises such as a slow jog, stationary bike, or walking are all great warm up activities.  Normally stretching and warming up are classified together, when it is actually two very different aspects of preparing for training.  Warm ups should be performed prior to stretching because the warm up allows for full extensibility of muscles optimizing the next act of stretching.

Types of Warm Ups

There are two types of warm ups: Active and Passive.  Passive warm ups include using external help when increasing body core temperature, such as wearing sweat shirts or sweat pants, or sitting in a sauna.  Active warm ups are similar to the common understanding of warming up, which can be done in the ways described previously or in a sports specific way, replicating the motion of your specific activity in a slower and concentrated motion.  The best methods of warm up is a combination of both passive and active components. Active warm ups help to improve muscle efficiency, speed, performance, decreased chance of strain, and improved reaction time.   DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness can also be reduced with proper warm up.  A decreased number of trigger points can be reduced, so a decreased amount of pain is experiencing.

In physical therapy, we utilize these principles when initializing a program to enhance and optimize a patient’s time and effort to reach the best rehabilitation potential.  We use passive methods of warm up when applying moist heat to a single or group of muscles.   We utilize active methods after passive, by having patient use the recumbent bike, walking, or the upper body bicycle.  These are given to patients during therapy and instructed to perform during their home exercise program.  It is important to know the proper ways to warm up ad utilize these ideas every day before every workout.  For more information on physical therapy visit

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