closeup on feet of couple jogging outdoorsMany health and fitness experts alike laud the benefits that come from warming up before beginning a high intensity workout, be it running, weight lifting, or a sport that requires a significant level of physical fitness. Yet many—if not the majority—of those who exercise skip the warm up period in favor of saving time and getting the more intense portion of the workout over and done with. Here is what you need to know about warming up before exercise, so that you can include a warm up in every workout and do so wisely.

 

Know the difference between warming up and stretching.


Many have yet to make the distinction between warming up before exercise and simple stretching of the muscles. Warming up involves spending a few minutes on a lighter activity that closely mimics the workout you’ll be doing—lightly jogging before a run, doing jumping jacks before a synergistic workout, or bicycling slowly before a high-intensity bicycle ride, for example.


Know the benefits of warming up.


A good warm up—one that’s just enough to raise your body temperature and break a sweat—is known to help reduce injuries when it comes time for the more strenuous workout. Moreover, it boosts oxygen levels in the bloodstream and will actually enhance your performance during your workout. A warm up will also mentally prepare you for what’s to come. Therefore, it’s highly important that you don’t skip your pre-workout warm up!


Tailor your warm up to your workout.


Remember: an effective warm up should involves motions that are similar to what you will be doing in your workout. If your workout will involve a great deal of jumping, for example, then jumping jacks are a good warm up exercise. If you are going to be working out your legs, then squats and lunges are good options. Think of simpler versions of the exercises you’ll be doing in your workout and incorporate those in your warm up. Gradually increase your intensity throughout the warm up until you feel that you’ve increased your body temperature and mentally prepared for the workout.


Warm up for long enough.


The proper time for your warm up will vary, of course, by what you’ll be doing throughout the course of your workout, but one general guideline to go by is to make it about 10 to 20 minutes. In fact, many hour-long workout routines involve warming up, followed by brief stretching and a brief rest, for the first 15 minutes or so. Some athletes who are going to be doing high intensity workouts or longer races might feel that they need to spend longer on their warm ups, however.