Ben wants to start exercising regularly, but feels dumb asking how. He knows that in order to run or ride a bike he can't just start sprinting or pedaling like a maniac. He needs to prepare his body for these activities, but has heard mixed things about stretching before working out.
Here are the cold, hard facts on warming up, stretching, and cooling down.
The Basics of Warming Up
It's important to warm up your body before any physical activity. Warming up for about 5-10 minutes goes a long way toward preparing the body for exercising, both physically and mentally. It also helps prevent injuries.
The term "warm-up" describes many light-aerobic and cardiovascular activities. When you warm up, you are literally warming up the temperature of both your body and your muscles.
Warming up also:
- increases your heart and respiratory rate
- boosts the amount of nutrients and oxygen delivered to your muscles
- prepares the body for a demanding workout
Types of Warm-Ups
You can use many types of warm-up activities to prepare your body for intense physical exercise. Often a warm-up activity is simply the activity you are about to do but at a slower pace. For example, if you're about to go for a brisk run, warm up with a light jog, and if you're going to go for a swim, do a couple of slow freestyle warm-up laps. If you play a sport, focus on the muscles that are used for your particular sport. For instance, if you play baseball, you might focus on your shoulder for throwing.
Dynamic stretching uses many muscle groups in a sport specific manner and can be incorporated in your warm-up. In addition to warming up the body and preparing muscles that will be used in the activity, dynamic stretching allows for full range of motion of the joints.
to learn more about warming up, stretching and cooling down.