Do I need to stretch before exercise?

Everywhere you go, someone will be bending and twisting and interpretive dancing as they warm up those abs, glutes, clacks and dorfs1 before heading into some form of exercise, and you think to yourself, "Self, is that really necessary?" (You'll be happy to know that eye rolling is a form of warm up).

Mum used to tell me every time I was about to exercise, "Make sure you warm up or you'll pull something!" Okay, so she didn't have to say it all that often, but for those attempts I did make at exercising, a warm up put me in a good mood for that throwing sport, and the one with the ball. I actually felt warmed up and ready for action.

From reading studies, (they make me research these articles), the strongest evidence points to this being the number one benefit of a warm up, the psychological readiness.

Psychological benefits 

Now, I'm not saying it's all in your head, but the reoccurring theme appears to be that the warm up is about setting your frame of mind first. A good warm up will:

  • Create a soothing barrier between you and the chaos that was just getting here
  • Allow you to order your thoughts
  • Let you mentally confirm your game plan
  • Affirm that you look good in those new sneaks.

Physical benefits - It seems there are physiological benefits as well:

  • The heart starts to pay attention
  • The blood warms
  • The blood vessels dilate
  • The muscles fill with blood
  • The joints lubricate
  • As the activity is increased, all these energy regulating hormones and chemicals are produced, and your body feels ready for the challenge.
  • Diving into a warm up in top gear is not the best idea it seems, you have to warm up the warm up, gradually building in intensity [2].

Types of warm up 

There are two types of warm up:

  • Static, (trying to touch your toes is an example)
  • Dynamic, (swinging limbs about).

Dynamic warm ups are the suggested method to begin with, and static warm ups are great once the muscles have warmed. (My belief was that it was the other way around, but a study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation [3] suggests that starting with a static warm up can actually decrease muscle power and strength which can leave muscles vulnerable to injury.)

How long should I warm up for? - The suggested length of a warm up ranges from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the task ahead and the head space you need to tackle it.

Preventing injury - Now, there are several studies dedicated to drawing parallels between warming up and reducing injury. It makes sense that the warmed up muscles, heart and joints will minimise injury, but the overall results from these studies remain inconclusive.

So, you've warmed up your warm up, you've warmed up that machine of a body, and you've warmed up that 'can do' attitude, now get out there and show off those new sneaks!



Sources: [1] [2]!po=3.12500 [3]

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