It is commonly assumed that warming up is mandatory for a good workout and that
without it, one will be at an increased risk for injury. Athletes believe that
warming up is important and that it will lead to a significant reduction of
Before I let you in on the secrets of why warming up is
essential prior to engaging in physical activity, it is important to know what
is considered warming up and what is not.
There is a common misconception
that stretching is a type of warm-up, when in reality, they are two completely
different activities that should not be confused with each other. My second
piece in this series will address the controversial issue of whether or not
stretching leads to reduction in the incidence of injuries, or whether in fact,
it does more harm than good.
Warm-ups are postulated to be beneficial for
our bodies for a number of reasons.
The primary purpose of warming up is
to increase body and muscle temperature, by slowing increasing your heart rate
and breathing rate. This increases the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to
your muscles, preparing them for hard, physical work. This is something that
should be done BEFORE stretching.
An additional reason for warming up is
that when your muscles and tendons are cold, they are more likely to be injured.
Warming up muscles reduces their stiffness, which is essential for injury
Yet another benefit is that warming up speeds up nerve
impulses, which means that coordination will improve, leading to better
When you warm-up your body, you are slowly preparing your
body for physical activity. This gradual adjustment to activity is much
healthier for your body than rapid and instant change in activity.
body greatly appreciates the slow and steady rise in activity that gives your
cardiovascular system (your heart and blood vessels) sufficient time to adapt to
its new physical demands for oxygen and blood.
Your body is now prepared
to start physical activity! Now that you know how warming up works, let’s
elaborate on its different types.
As I wrote earlier, warming up is meant
to increase your body temperature and there are different types of warm-ups that
one can do.
There’s warming up using equipment (for instance, an
elliptical machine), warming up without equipment that focuses on a specific
body part (for instance, the knee), and warming up that focuses on the entire
body (for instance, jumping jacks).
Research shows that a warm-up that
focuses on a specific body part is most beneficial, because essentially you are
practicing the activity that you will be doing.
The activity you are
warming up for, and one’s physical capabilities is definitely something that
should be taken into account, as this will affect the type of warmup that is
There is a lot of research that supports the claim that a
warm-up is an essential part of physical activity and lowers the chances of
injuries that can occur during physical activity.
When you warm up
consistently before physical activity, you are ensuring that your muscle
contractions will be smoother (as they are more used to the activity), due to
greater muscle elasticity.
Many studies found that when participants
warmedup prior to engaging in physical activity, they were less susceptible to
Warming up was found to reduce the occurrence of sports-related
injuries to the musculoskeletal system (also called the locomotor
The musculoskeletal system can be injured by sprains, tears,
strains and injuries between connecting tissues.
can affect ligaments, muscles, bones, tendons, nerves, cartilage, spinal discs
Flexibility helps reduce injuries to these
There are two different types of flexibility, static and
Static flexibility – a passive movement where something or
someone else is moving the joint and not the person themselves.
flexibility – a movement that results from a muscle contraction from the person
As with any type of exercise, double-check with your sports
physician, physiotherapist or personal trainer before attempting any of these
stretches. The above examples are given only so that you will have some
background information on the issue.
The next time you get ready to jog,
swim, play basketball, or take part in your preferred physical activity,
remember to warm up! Your body will feel better for having warmed itself up and
your range of motion will be easier and smoother.The above information
is supplied by Yonatan Kaplan PT PhD (Candidate). Director, Jerusalem Sports
Medicine Institute, Lerner Sports Center, Hebrew University. For further
details, please visit www.jsportmed.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Yonatan at 054-463-9463.