Guest Writer Jennifer Dunn, DPT from Staszak Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR.
You know the drill; when you’re running short on time for your workout the first thing to get cut is either the warm-up or the cool-down. But be careful. Below are 3 reasons why a proper warm-up is important and how it decreases your risk for injury. If you already have an injury, the warm-up is even more important and might be a key piece of getting you back to your normal routine (like walking a few blocks and sitting at your desk) with less pain.
1. A warm-up increases blood flow to and mobility of working muscles
Think of your muscles like spaghetti noodles. Straight out of the box they are rigid and break if you try to bend them. If they are boiled (warmed-up) you can bend them into all different ways – you can tie ’em in a knot, you can tie ’em in a bow – without breaking them. Your muscles are similar in that they are much more mobile/extensible/flexible after a proper warm-up. All that means decreased risk of injury and less pain with movement!
2. A warm-up increases synovial fluid – your body’s natural joint lubricant – to working joints
Our bodies are very self-sufficient machines. Our joints automatically lubricate themselves when they are used. A great way to keep your joints healthy is to prepare them for exercise through gentle movement that gets the lubrication flowing before diving into the hardest part of your workout. The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to your body. Get your joints prepared for movement to prevent excessive wear and tear on them through a focused warm-up routine.
3. Perhaps most overlooked but very importantly, a warm-up primes your central nervous system – the brain to muscle connection – to get ready for movement
This is so important, especially if you are already nursing an injury. A warm-up using the same movement patterns you will use in your workout helps you do the movement correctly when you are under resistance or moving at high speed. If you are injured, the CNS may need to be primed to correctly function with ordinary activities such as walking or climbing stairs. In other words, an important function of the warm-up is to get the right muscles on at the right time.