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4 Important Reasons You Must Warm Up Before Running

How Does Warming Up Help?

Stirring our resting muscles and joints into sudden high-intensity action makes injury likely. A 15-minute pre-workout warm-up with cardio, dynamic stretching, and strength drills raises the body temperature, boosts blood circulation, lubricates the joints, and prepares the brain for intense activity. This boosts your flexibility and endurance and prevents side stitches as well as other bone and muscle injuries.

Running is one of the best ways to attain fitness. Regular running helps maintain good health and lead a stress-free life.

An ideal warm-up should include

 

  • Cardiovascular exercises to increase the heart rate and the body temperature
  • Dynamic stretching to make the muscles warm
  • Strength drills for endurance

However, running is not just about putting on a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, fastening the shoe lace, and taking off. It is important to adequately warm up before you hit the track.

Studies done to understand the importance of adequate warming up before any exercise have found that warm-up improves backward flexing and range of motion even in people suffering from such impairments.1 Here’s why you should warm up.

1. To Increase Endurance

Warm-ups increase the heart rate, prompting the heart to pump more blood into the body. As your heart rate increases, your core body temperature also increases. This makes all the blood vessels, including the arteries and the capillaries in the body, dilate, enabling the blood to reach every nook of the body. This in turn increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. As a result, the muscles take longer to experience fatigue. That’s what endurance essentially means.2

2. To Increase Flexibility

A good warm-up helps the bones and joints become more flexible by changing the consistency of the synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is a viscous fluid in the synovial joints – for instance, your elbows and knees. It prevents friction between the cartilages at the ends of the bones forming the joint and provides nutrition to the cartilage. Before a warm-up, the synovial fluid resembles a thick paste. Post warm-up, increase in body temperature makes the fluid thin and the joint movement easy. This contributes to your flexibility.3

3. To Prevent Injuries

Imagine a car that hasn’t seen the road for a while. If it is taken out for a race one fine morning, it is bound to develop technical snags and break down before the finish line. Similarly, for your body to work like a well-oiled machine on the track, you need to prep it for at least 15 minutes prior to the task.

When the body is in a relaxed, rested state, the muscles do not need much blood circulation. Most of the small blood vessels or capillaries within those muscles are closed at this point, resulting in stiff, non-pliable muscles. Any intense physical activity at this stage is a clear recipe for injuries.

As discussed, warm-up increases muscle temperature, improving the coordination and the flexibility around the joints. The improved blood flow also optimizes aerobic function.4

Warming-up also helps prevent side stitch, a stabbing pain felt below the ribs during a brisk walk or a run. It’s a cramp related to breathing. When your aerobic capacity improves, side stitches can be prevented.

4. To Prepare The Brain For Intense Activity

Warm-up also help prep the mind for the activity. Studies have shown that it is not just the metabolic capacity that dictates the endurance levels of a human body. Any voluntary exercise starts and ends in the brain. A conscious decision precedes a voluntary effort. To quote a study, “the central nervous system integrates input from various sources related to the exercise and limits the intensity and duration of recruitment of limb skeletal muscle to prevent jeopardizing the integrity of the organism.” Though the role of cardiorespiratory and muscle metabolic capacities in performance cannot be brushed aside, the study has proven the need to prepare the central nervous system as it plays a pivotal role as the ultimate site where exercise starts and ends.5

Warm Up For 15 Minutes Before Any Exercise

Now that we know warm-up is important for performance, it leaves us with one question – how much is the ideal warm-up time? In a study to understand the effect of warm-up on performance, a 15-minute warm-up was found to increase heart rate, body temperature, anaerobic capacity and increased ankle dorsiflexion and hip extension.6

Here, we can conclude that a good 15 minutes of warm-up should take your running performance to the optimum level. So, get set, go!

References   [ + ]

1. Knight, Claudia A., Carrie R. Rutledge, Michael E. Cox, Martha Acosta, and Susan J. Hall. “Effect of superficial heat, deep heat, and active exercise warm-up on the extensibility of the plantar flexors.”Physical Therapy 81, no. 6 (2001): 1206-1214.
2. Neiva, Henrique P., Mário C. Marques, Tiago M. Barbosa, Mikel Izquierdo, and Daniel A. Marinho. “Warm-up and performance in competitive swimming.” Sports Medicine 44, no. 3 (2014): 319-330.
3. Shellock, Frank G., and William E. Prentice. “Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries.” Sports Medicine 2, no. 4 (1985): 267-278.
4. Shellock, Frank G., and William E. Prentice. “Warming-up and stretching for improved physical performance and prevention of sports-related injuries.” Sports Medicine 2, no. 4 (1985): 267-278.
5. Kayser, Bengt. “Exercise starts and ends in the brain.” European journal of applied physiology 90, no. 3-4 (2003): 411-419.
6. Stewart, Ian B., and Gordon G. Sleivert. “The effect of warm-up intensity on range of motion and anaerobic performance.” Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 27, no. 2 (1998): 154-161.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.