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Warm Up to Work Out

Suppose you were told that you only had to add an extra five to 10 minutes to each of your workouts in order to prevent injury and lessen fatigue. Would you do it?

Most people would say yes. Then they might be surprised to learn that they already know about those few minutes called a warm-up. If done correctly, a pre-exercise warm-up can have a multitude of beneficial effects on a person's workout and, consequently, their overall health.

What happens in your body?

When you begin to exercise, your cardio respiratory and neuromuscular systems and metabolic energy pathways are stimulated. Muscles contract and, to meet their increasing demands for oxygen, your heart rate, blood flow, cardiac output and breathing rate increase. Blood moves faster through your arteries and veins, and is gradually routed to working muscles.

Your blood temperature rises and oxygen is released more quickly, raising the temperature of the muscles. This allows the muscles to use glucose and fatty acids to burn calories and create energy for the exercise. All of these processes prepare the body for higher-intensity action.

Specifically...a gradual warm-up:

bulletLeads to efficient calorie burning by increasing your core body temperature


bulletProduces faster, more forceful muscle contractions


bulletIncreases your metabolic rate so oxygen is delivered to the working muscles more quickly


bulletPrevents injuries by improving the elasticity of your muscles


bulletGives you better muscle control by speeding up your neural message pathways to the muscles


bulletAllows you to work out comfortably longer because all your energy systems are able to adjust to exercise, preventing the buildup of lactic acid in the blood


bulletImproves joint range of motion


bulletPsychologically prepares you for higher intensities by increasing your arousal and focus on exercise


Where to begin

Your warm-up should consist of two phases: 1) progressive aerobic activity that utilizes the muscles you will be using during your workout, and 2) flexibility exercises. Choosing which warm-up activity to use is as easy as slowing down what you will be doing during your work-out.

For example, if you will be running, warm up with a slow jog, or if you will be cycling outdoors, begin in lower gears.

An ideal intensity for an aerobic warm-up has yet to be established, but a basic guideline is to work at a level that produces a small amount of perspiration, but doesn't leave you feeling fatigued. The duration of the warm-up activity will depend on the intensity of your workout as well as your own fitness level.

After the aerobic warm-up activity you should incorporate flexibility/stretching exercises. Stretching muscles after warming them up with low-intensity aerobic activity will produce a better stretch since the rise in muscle temperature and circulation increases muscle elasticity, making them more pliable. Be sure to choose flexibility exercises that stretch the primary muscles you will be using during your workout.

Make the time

In order to fully reap the benefits of the time you are spending exercising, you must warm up. Taking those extra few minutes to adjust to increased activity will ensure a better performance from your body and, in turn, will make your workout more efficient, productive and, best of all, enjoyable.


More than 31,000 Americans found themselves braving snowy, icy roads on their way to the emergency room, victims of one of winter's most serious calamities. It's not the flu - it's back injuries caused during snow shoveling! While snow shoveling is a chore and most certainly manual labor, it is also a moderate physically demanding form of exercise. As such, snow shoveling should be approached with the same smart practices employed before any physical bout of strength training or cardiovascular exercise.

Before heading out to clear the driveway or walk outside your home or business, here are some important tips to remember to help keep you out of the ER!

1. Warm-up your body. I'm not just talking about layers of clothing - I'm talking about your muscles. There is a significantly reduced chance for injuries when you warm your muscles before performing strenuous activities. Perform some marching in place or walk for about five minutes on a treadmill before bundling up to begin shoveling.

2. S-T-R-E-T-C-H. Again, in an effort to reduce injury, be sure to stretch those, now warmed, muscles before beginning your shoveling task. Be sure to stretch your legs, chest, shoulders, arms and most importantly - your back!

3. Dress properly from head-to-toe. Most of us know that a considerable amount of body heat is lost through our heads, so be sure to wear a hat before heading outside. What we don't often think about is tread on our boots when we shovel snow. Slips or balance loss on ice are serious enough. When combined with the act of shoveling, it's easy to strain a muscle.

4. Form proper form. Think like a snow plow and not a bull dozer. That is, try to push the snow rather than lifting it. If you must lift the snow, remember to utilize your legs, rather than your back. Scoop small loads of snow and walk to where you want to deposit it, instead of lifting and turning or twisting and throwing the full shovel.

Remember snow shoveling is a cardiovascular activity that causes the heart to pump at a faster rate. Be sure to pace yourself, take frequent breaks and remember to replenish your fluids often with non-caffeine beverages. If you feel chest pain, discomfort or other symptoms of cardiac trauma, stop immediately and seek medical attention.