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The Fitness Zone

Do I Really Need To Warm Up Before Exercise?
June 13, 2016

The health and fitness industry continues to evolve and is filled with many different concepts. From clinical guidelines on the importance of exercise monitoring for chronic disease exercise programs, to sport specific warm up drills for improving performance in the professional athlete. Then we have the everyday weekend warrior/recreational athlete that is looking for the best in their gym program.

Now we know that immediately jumping into a flat out high intensity training session is dangerous to the participant (and us), but there is growing interest in clients wanting the best ‘bang for your buck’ exercise regime. With this comes the added importance of ensuring that the client is physically and mentally ready for their exercise routine. Another important aspect is ensuring that before staring their session, their body systems are carefully warmed up, otherwise the risk of injury is much more likely.

Before an exercise session, we recommend that clients prepare their different body systems via a warm up. The duration of a warm up is recommended to be between 5-10 minutes for most general exercises. This duration is suitable for a wide range of clientele, from chronic disease groups to the more general exercisers and for those wanting improvements in athletic performance.

For our general client to feel ready to exercise, our exercise intensity does not need to be maximal.

You want to start your client with a light to moderate level of intensity to allow the cardiorespiratory system, aka heart and lungs, time to adapt to the exercise demands. This involves a suitable increase in the heart rate, which will allow for greater delivery of blood to the performing muscles.

Another important consideration is the increase in muscle temperature, which as a result influences substrate delivery to working muscles to allow energy production. The temperature will continue to increases to match the intensity that will follow in the main workout, therefore, as long as the warm up doesn’t empty the energy in the body, it will prepare the body for the training session and will minimise the risk of injury.

Activities for a warm up can include walking, light jogging, general rhythmical arm and leg movements, and light resistance activity. More and more research suggests that active stretching or dynamic mobility drills will also help to prepare the body for a workout, while also allowing for a general increase in heart rate, breathing and body temperature. This is great for our joints as it allows the surrounding tissue to become more elastic, so the movements in the exercise session can be carried out comfortably without that ‘stiff’ feeling.

Warming up the body before an exercise session is an important element in an individual's exercise program. If your client prefers to warm themselves up for their session, make sure you give them clear guidelines of what a warm up should involve and asses before jumping straight into a workout. If this is performed successfully, the physiological components of the body will adjust to suit the intensity, which will, in turn have your client ready to smash their training!

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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