We know it’s tempting, but don’t skip warming up before you exercise. Your body and muscles will thank us later, we promise.
No matter what form of exercise you do—yoga, running, swimming, hitting the gym—it’s essential you warm up before you start. It’s an often-overlooked part of exercising. Without a good warm up your muscles just aren’t ready for the stretches coming up, and that’ll do more harm than good.
A warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles (preparing them for stretching), increases body temperature (which lets you exercise longer and harder), revs up your cardiovascular system, and gets your nerve-to-muscle pathways ready for the exercises to come. Warming up also has a lot to do with injury prevention. All it takes is 5 to 10 minutes. So why rush ahead without it?
Quick warm-up routine
- Start with ankle rotations (10 for each leg, clockwise and anti-clockwise).
- Move to hip rotations (10 clockwise, 10 anti-clockwise); really bend your hips to get the full power of the stretch.
- Next, curl your fingers into fists, hold your hands out and rotate your wrists (10 clockwise, 10 anti-clockwise).
- Then place your fingertips on your shoulders and rotate your shoulders (10 clockwise, 10 anti-clockwise). Remember not to jerk too hard when doing this.
- Move to neck stretches. Clasp your hands behind your back and stretch your neck by flexing your head forwards and backwards and side to side. Avoid rolling your head around your neck.
- Then, standing with legs shoulder-width apart, place your left hand on your waist, raise your right arm and stretch your body towards the left. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 stretches on each side.
- Next up, stand with legs shoulder-width apart, raise both your arms up with your fingertips pointing to the sky. Stand up on your toes and stretch the entire length of your body and reach for the ceiling. Count to 10 and hold the position. Release and bring your hands and heel down. Do this three times.
- Now it is time to do something that will increase your heart rate, for example, jogging in one spot or jumping jacks. Do this for 1 minute.
That’s it! Your warm-up is done and you can get started with your exercise.
Photograph: Kyle Cassidy/Creative Commons