Fit Facts: 10 Reasons Why Warming Up is Important.

By Dorothy Hamburg, M.S., Exercise Physiologist. USA Triathlon Level II Expert Coach, Clinical Exercise Specialist & Health Fitness Instructor (ACSM), and founder of Personal Strength & Training. She is also the owner of TriSportsTraining.com, a site dedicated to women specific triathlon training & coaching.

Musculoskeletal injuries and medical problems can occur from participating in physical activity and exercise, however the benefits far outweigh the risks. You can decrease your risk of injury by gradually working up to a desired level of activity and by adequately warming up the muscles and joints prior to exercise.

Here’s why a 5 minute warm-up prior to activity is important.

  1. Warming up increases the break down of oxyhemoglobin, a chemical complex of oxygen and hemoglobin. This process results in the release of oxygen from the blood, enhancing the delivery of oxygen to the exercising muscle.
  2. Warming up increases body temperature. An elevation in body temperature produced by warming up reduces the potential for skeletal muscle and connective tissue injuries. Cold muscles and tendons are more susceptible to injury.
  3. A 5 minute warm-up increases blood flow to the exercising muscles. A greater level of blood reaching the muscles involved in the activity aids in the delivery of the important fuels (e.g., glucose and free fatty acids) required for energy production.
  4. A 5 minute warm-up increases blood flow to the heart. A greater level of blood delivered to the heart reduces the potential for exercise-induced myocardial ischemia.
  5. Warming up decreases the viscosity of the muscle. Reduced muscle viscosity increases the suppleness of the muscle, thereby enhancing the mechanical efficiency and power of the exercising muscles.
  6. Warming up also causes an early onset of sweating. An early onset of sweating promotes evaporative heat loss and as a result decreases the amount of heat stored by the body. This will help to prevent an individual�s body temperature from rising to dangerously high levels during (more strenuous) exercise.
  7. It also enhances the speed of nerve impulse transmission. As nerve impulses are conducted at a faster rate, neuromuscular co-ordination tends to improve, resulting in better performance of certain motor tasks.
  8. A warm-up increases the blood saturation of muscles and connective tissue. A higher level of blood reaching the muscles, tendons, and ligaments involved in the activity increases the elasticity of these tissues, resulting in a safer, more effective performance of stretching exercises.
  9. An appropriate warm-up prepares the cardiovascular system for the upcoming (more strenuous) physical activity. Warming up helps to ensure that the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) is given time to adjust to the body�s increased demands for blood and oxygen.
  10. It also prepares the muscular system for the upcoming (more strenuous) physical activity. Warming up provides a transition from a resting state to strenuous exercise, and may reduce the likelihood of delayed muscular soreness.