Sunday, July 30, 2006


Suppose you were told that you only
had to add an extra five to 10 minutes to
each of your workouts in order to prevent
injury and lessen fatigue. Would you do it?
Most people would say yes. Then they
might be surprised to learn that they
already know about those few minutes
called a warm-up. If done correctly, a preexercise
warm-up can have a multitude
of beneficial effects on a person’s workout
and, consequently, their overall health.


When you begin to exercise, your cardiorespiratory
and neuromuscular systems
and metabolic energy pathways are
stimulated. Muscles contract and, to meet
their increasing demands for oxygen, your
heart rate, blood flow, cardiac output and
breathing rate increase. Blood moves faster
through your arteries and veins, and is
gradually routed to working muscles.
Your blood temperature rises and oxygen is
released more quickly, raising the temperature
of the muscles. This allows the muscles
to use glucose and fatty acids to burn
calories and create energy for the exercise.
All of these processes prepare
the body for higher-intensity action.


A gradual warm-up:
-leads to efficient calorie burning by
increasing your core body temperature
-produces faster, more forceful muscle
-increases your metabolic rate so oxygen
is delivered to the working muscles
more quickly
-prevents injuries by improving the elasticity
of your muscles
- gives you better muscle control by
speeding up your neural message
pathways to the muscles
- allows you to work out comfortably
longer because all your energy systems
are able to adjust to exercise,
preventing the buildup of lactic acid
in the blood
- improves joint range of motion
-psychologically prepares you for higher
intensities by increasing your arousal
and focus on exercise


Your warm-up should consist of two
phases: 1) progressive aerobic activity that
utilizes the muscles you will be using
during your workout, and 2) flexibility
exercises. Choosing which warm-up
activity to use is as easy as slowing down
what you will be doing during your workout.
For example, if you will be running,
warm up with a slow jog, or if you will be
cycling outdoors, begin in lower gears.

An ideal intensity for an aerobic warm-up
has yet to be established, but a basic
guideline is to work at a level that produces
a small amount of perspiration,
but doesn’t leave you feeling fatigued. The
duration of the warm-up activity will
depend on the intensity of your workout
as well as your own fitness level.

After the aerobic warm-up activity you
should incorporate flexibility/stretching
exercises. Stretching muscles after warming
them up with low-intensity aerobic activity
will produce a better stretch since the rise
in muscle temperature and circulation increases
muscle elasticity, making them
more pliable. Be sure to choose flexibility
exercises that stretch the primary muscles
you will be using during your workout.


In order to fully reap the benefits of
the time you are spending exercising,
you must warm up. Taking those extra
few minutes to adjust to increased
activity will ensure a better performance
from your body and, in turn, will make
your workout more ef- ficient, productive
and, best of all, enjoyable.

If you are interested in information on other health and fitness topics, contact: American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Drive,
San Diego, CA 92123, 800-825-3636; or, go online at and access the complete list of ACE Fit Facts