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  • Writer's pictureDr. Taylor Ferguson

Why Warm Up?

In my office, I typically see young to middle age active individuals. More often than not, I see them due to an injury. Most commonly their injuries are the result of a really simple task, such as putting on their socks or turning over in bed. Can you relate?

Many patients attribute these common occurrence injuries to the aging process. The funny thing is that not all of these individuals are the same age. This tells me that there is no one age at which our bodies suddenly become “old” and susceptible to injury. However, what I do find to be true is that our bodies and tissues have limitations. 

When injuries start to occur, these patients’ bodies may have reached the point of finally setting boundaries. Meaning, for some amount of time (a variable unique to each respective individual) we can get away without warming up, stretching, eating right, staying hydrated, etc. without feeling the effects immediately. What you don’t realize is that every time you are, shall we say cheating the system, you are decreasing the longevity of your tissues, and their ability to adapt to stress and recover. Eventually, your body will no longer let you skip steps like warming up or stretching. When it reaches this point, your body will start to talk to you. You will start to experience aches and pains that you have never felt before, such as debilitating pain after attempting to put on your socks or lifting something light off of the floor. You may be tempted to equate this to the aging process, like everyone else. However, it is more likely due to years of abuse. Not treating your body by appropriately warming up or implementing adequate recovery tactics can and does take its toll. So the next time you think about skipping the warm-up or decide that recovery is not that important, consider thinking otherwise. 

So why is warming up so imperative? Warming up brings blood flow into the area, which brings oxygen and energy sources to the muscles that are working. It activates muscles for the activity at hand, making you more efficient and less likely to get injured while doing them. It also slowly increases your heart rate which gives your body time to adapt to the increasing physiologic demand. Warming up helps you to gradually transition from a parasympathetic state to a sympathetic state. It increases the number of motor units you recruit so that you can eventually produce a maximum amount of force. Warming up allows you to adequately deal with the stress that you place on your body in a healthy way, without depleting your system of the physiological resources available, and increases your efficiency.

After an injury, it becomes even more important to warm-up before each workout. Did you know that one of the most common pre-determinant factors to injuring an area is having a previous injury in that same area? This is because your tissues have been damaged and most likely have not healed to their pre-injury status. In addition, certain tissues are even replaced by a completely different tissue type and with a different function during the physiologic repair. This means that while the area may be structurally healed, its ability to function is decreased compared to un-injured/normal tissue.

In order to limit your likelihood of injuring or re-injuring yourself, you must warm-up appropriately. This may mean arriving early to a group exercise class or adding 30 minutes to your own workout, depending on your personal workout habits. While group exercise warm-ups are great for increasing your heart rate and priming you for the movements in the upcoming hour, they are not specific to your needs. It is important that you advocate for your health and your longevity by arriving early to class in order to work on the movements you specifically need for your own health and safety. It is also important to work with a coach, a personal trainer, a chiropractor, or a physical therapist knowledgable about your injury and your workout demand in order to ensure your warm-ups are tailored to your specific needs!

While this health tip focused on the importance of warming up, recovery is equally as important, for more information on ways to recover effectively click here.


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