As the days become colder in the fall and as we head into winter, it becomes more important to perform warm up exercises before we do any activity. Why is that? Not only are warm up exercises great to keep the body warm and get blood flowing into the muscles for the activity, but they are also critical for injury prevention.
Studies have found that athletes that performed warm up exercises before their sport sustained fewer overuse injuries and fewer overall injuries as well as an increased measure of performance compared to those who have not. In a study about hamstring length comparisons, researchers found a significant increase in hamstring flexibility after warm ups compared to ones who did not. This is important because the lack of flexibility is commonly the source of strains and sprains.
Warm ups also help athletic performances because by heating up the body and getting heart rate to increase, the body increases aerobic and metabolic rates to prepare ahead of time for any activity. As these rates increase, you will find that your body can perform the sport better and fatigue less easily, making you enjoy the activity much more.
Some warm up activities include light jogging to get the heart pumping, jumping jacks to move blood towards the upper and lower limbs, or some specific movements related to the activity you will perform. If you wish to improve flexibility of the muscles before an activity, it is recommended to do more dynamic exercises like arm circles rather than static stretching. This is because static stretching may overextend muscle lengths which would cause them to weaken. In addition, if one does static stretches too much, they may leave the muscle more susceptible to injuries instead.
Try to incorporate some warm up exercises before any activity, and you will enjoy it more and reduce the chances of injuries!