How important is a good warm up?

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World class athletes do it, Top fitness trainers do it, we teach our children to do it before each hockey game, soccer match or dance lesson. So, why is it when it comes to our own fitness regime we tend to skip it, or don't hold it to the same importance as our actual workout? What is it that these top athletes and young inspiring athletes do? A good intense warm up. Not only is a good warm up essential to prepping our body to take on a challenging class or workout, but it also helps to reduce the chance of injuries and increases our ability to burn extra calories. These extra calories, I like to refer to as the hidden calories. At first, the calories consumed during a good warm up might seem to be insignificant, but over time they can add up to be quite a difference maker that a lot of us overlook. Having a good warm up is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you get the most out of your workout.

First, let's touch on the physical benefits of a good warm-up. Warming up before any physical activity helps increase blood flow to the working muscle. This blood flow carries oxygenated blood to the muscles allowing you to perform a specific exercise for a longer period of time. The better your endurance, the more calories you will burn and more increased results you will notice. It also helps to increase body temperature. This improves muscle elasticity, also reducing the risk of strains and pulls helping to prevent injuries. Warming up will increase the range of motion by releasing lubricants to the joints and ligaments throughout the body. It will help open up your breathing passages allowing for more blood to be oxygenated for your working muscles to take advantage of. Physically it is preparing the body for the work that is ahead. It can make all the difference of an okay workout to having a great workout where you walk away feeling like you just dominated that circuit.

Next, let's cover the hormonal benefits of a good warm-up. During the warm up, the body also goes through a chemical process that helps to prepare the body for the task at hand. The body starts to release endorphins that help to energize the body and give you that pumped feeling. You know the one that makes you look at your trainer and say “come on buddy hit me with your best shot” kind of feeling. Other hormones are released into the blood stream that helps regulates energy production, it increases the body's ability to produce more carbohydrates and fatty acids that will be converted into energy which will be utilized during your training session. This is also the time where the body's metabolism starts to increase preparing the body to convert more carbohydrates and protein into usable energy which is measured in calories. All these hormonal changes during the warm up are essential to give you the best chance at pushing yourself to your extreme limits. Plain and simple, the better the warm up, the better the workout.

What about those  hidden calories that I had mentioned earlier? During the many warm ups conducted at Integrity Fitness over the years, I have noticed that most participants can burn anywhere from 50-80 calories during a 5 to 7-minute warm-up. It might not seem like a lot at first but if you take the average member at our club who works out at least 3 times a week and track those hidden calories over a course of a year that number becomes more significant. Simple math, if we take a member who comes 3 times a week, and we even take the low number of 50 calories per warm up that is 150 cal a week. Now take that number and times that by 4 and that number changes to 600 calls a month. Now take it over a course of a year, 52 weeks in year times by 150 calories per week that number increases even more. That number now is 7800 calories over the course of a year. These are the hidden calories I am talking about. Just think, if you can make it to class 5 minutes earlier every class and you apply yourself during the warm up over a course of a year you will be taking advantage of those hidden calories and you will be hitting your goals at a faster rate.

In summary, why is it important to have a good warm up? It helps get the body ready for your workout. It helps to decrease the risk of injury and at the same time enhancing the body's ability to work more efficiently. It releases hormones that help you get pumped to take on any challenges that lay ahead. It kick starts your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories efficiently. So, the next time you are thinking that it's okay if you are a little late for the warm-up, think of these benefits that you are cheating your body out of.