Although they are often lumped together, warm-up and stretching are two distinct practices, and they are vitally important for an optimal workout. Warm-ups prepare your body for what is ahead while stretching involves the actual stretching of muscles.
A regular warm-up and stretching routine is key to maintaining good health, fitness, and vitality. Warm-up and stretching is highly recommended and should be a part of any strenuous exercise – normally before and after the exercise.
Warm-ups carried out before exercise help to prepare the body for activity. And the more intense your exercise, the more important it is to warm up.
Thorough warm-ups increase the flow and delivery of blood to working muscles, reducing the risk of stiffness in the muscles, limiting the risk of injury and improving performance.
Stretching prepares the soft tissues and body joints for a safe physical activity. A regular stretching routine improves joints flexibility and motion. The more flexible your body is, the better it is for your joints. Stretching also relieves tension and stress. As a therapy, it also enhances the healing process for several types of injuries.
Generally, a proper warm-up and stretching routine combined will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Here are some benefits you stand to gain with an adequate warm-up and stretching before your exercise.
Increase in Muscle Temperature
Proper warm-up before strenuous exercise will enable the muscles to contract with more force and a relax at a faster rate. This helps improve readiness, strength and speed. Warm-up before stretching also prevents undue stress and overextending of muscles thereby eliminating the risk of injury. Increasing body temperature improves the overall elasticity of body muscles, reducing the chance of pulling or straining a muscle.
Adequate Circulation and Increased Heart Rate
Proper warm-ups open up the blood vessels leading to free blood flow and circulation. For instance, a 5 to 10 minutes warm-up through walking or jogging gradually increase blood circulation to your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
As your heart rate increases, your body physiology prepares to work more efficiently. A straight workout (without warm-up) will put a lot of pressure on your heart. The body also gradually adjusts to the increased need for oxygen during the actual workout.
Reduces the risk of Muscular and soft tissue injury
According to the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports, a good warm-up can decrease the risk of injury if done correctly. Warmer muscles make the soft tissues more pliable. In essence, you are not likely to suffer a tear while twisting and turning.
During stretching sessions, one’s focus should be on the muscles that will be used in the actual exercise.
Tips for better stretching
- Ensure that major muscle groups benefit from the stretching. Depending on your planned activity, focus more on shoulders and neck, calves and thighs, hips, and /or lower back – prioritizing the muscles that will be involved in the actual exercise).
- Always stretch evenly on both sides of your body.
- Hold stretches for about 30 seconds. If you find it difficult, it’s OK to relax after a brief stretch and then resume the position.
- Exhale while going into the stretch; hold the stretch as you inhale.
- Avoid bouncing while stretching.
- Take care not to overextend if you feel pain.
In conclusion, a proper and consistent stretching routine will help by increasing your range of motion, increasing flexibility, increasing coordination between muscles, boosting energy levels, improving blood circulation, reducing muscular tension. It’s never too late to start implementing a stretching and warm-up routine….people of all ages and activity levels will experience these priceless benefits.
At Houston Foot and Ankle Care, we see a lot of foot and ankle injuries that could have potentially been avoided if the patient had practiced better stretching and warm-up habits. It’s not a magic bullet, but it does keep us more limber, flexible and resilient – great qualities to have at any stage in our lives. Are you suffering from a foot or ankle injury that needs attention? Call (713) 541-3199 for an appointment with Dr. Maislos, DPM, FACFAS, a Houston podiatrist with extensive experience in helping patients get back other feet, and back in action. We accept most major forms of medical insurance.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- ankle pain
- pain or inflammation around the heel
- arch or ball of foot pain