The Importance of Warming Up Before Exercising

By: Dr. James Caginalp PT, DPT

For many, having enough time to get to the gym is difficult enough – making time for a warm up may be an impossibility.  For serious athletes however, there are many benefits to warming up prior to working out or before a sports event.

Taking the time to do a 10-15 minute warm up allows the body time to raise its temperature, increase blood flow to muscles, which ultimately helps with performance.  A recent systematic review of the literature revealed that athletes who warmed up demonstrated a performance improvement in 79% of the criterions examined – a strong indication that warming up can provide a competitive edge.

Not only is warming up beneficial for performance, it is also a quick and easy way to help prevent injuries. This occurs by improving the length to failure and elasticity of the muscle-tendon unit during activity, which ultimately reduces the athlete’s chances of injury.

As a general rule of thumb, athletes with high levels of fitness generally will need a greater amount of time to warm up then an athlete who has a lower level of fitness.  The best activities however for both groups consist of low intensity, aerobic exercise such as jumping rope, biking, and running.  For warming up more specific muscles, dynamic warm up movements has the athlete or individual warm up by doing similar movements that their sport or activity would require.

Fradkin, Andrea J., Tsharni R. Zazryn, and James M. Smoliga. “Effects of Warming-up on Physical Performance: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 24.1 (2010): 140-48. Web.

Safran, M. R., W. E. Garrett, A. V. Seaber, R. R. Glisson, and B. M. Ribbeck. “The Role of Warmup in Muscular Injury Prevention.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 16.2 (1988): 123-29. Web.