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Whether you have just decided to incorporate an exercise regimen in your life for the first time, or are returning having been out of practice for some time, understanding the importance of a proper warm up and cool down is critical. A warm up serves two main purposes, to enhance your performance and to help prevent injury. In addition, many people find a warm up helps them prepare mentally for the exercise ahead.
When you are sitting down and not moving around, your blood vessels are constricted meaning blood flow to the muscles is low, about 15% – 20%. After about 10 mins of exercise, as your body temperature increases, your blood vessels dilate and so blood flow to the muscles increases to 70% -75%. This increased blood flow means more oxygenated blood is delivered to the working muscles, lengthening the time to fatigue and thus improving performance. Additionally, as blood flow increases and body temperature rises, so too does the temperature of your muscles. This is turn decreases muscle viscosity meaning faster muscle contraction and relaxation, enhancing your performance further.
Arguably the most important reason for a warm up is to prevent injury during exercise. It’s important to slowly increase your blood flow and heart rate. Studies have shown when there is low blood supply to the heart, and a sudden increase in heart rate, the heart is placed under more pressure which can serious consequences. It is also important to activate the muscles that you will be using for the duration of your workout in order to avoid damaging them, as studies have shown muscle tears occur most often when muscles are cold. Dynamic stretching also plays a huge role in preventing injuries, particularly when it comes to the joints that might endure sharp movements associated with certain sports.
Many people forget the importance of cooling down post exercise but it is equally as meaningful in injury prevention. Similar to slowly increasing the heartrate, slowly reducing it back to normal is recommended, especially if you want to avoid feeling lightheaded or faint. Stretching the target muscles post workout not only helps relax the worked muscles, and prevent any soreness you may feel the following day, but it also improves the flexibility of those muscles.
Part of the warm up process includes “getting your head the zone” for the upcoming exercise. Mentally preparing can help you focus on your goal, helping you block out unrelated thoughts and negative doubts you may be having. This improved focus can help you improve technique, skill and coordination.
Regardless of your level of athleticism, and the level of the activity you are undertaking, I hope the above portrays the importance of a proper warm up and cool down. Anything from 10-20 minutes is advised but just ensure you are targeting the right muscles relative to the exercise, in order to avoid injury. If you do suffer from an injury at any stage, our sports specialists Dave and Olive are trained in treating a wide range of sports related injuries and can address any injuries or training concerns you may have, To book an appointment, please contact the clinic here.