Warming up before a workout is often overlooked
Fitness and wellbeing expert Nicola Addison says: 'The warm-up prepares the brain and body for what is to come during the workout. Slowly increasing the heart rate and in turn blood flow will help mobilise the joints and lengthen the muscles.
'A good warm-up also reduces the chance of injury. We cannot expect the body to go from zero to hero instantly - think of it as a car that needs warming up on an icy day!'
When you start your gym warm-up you should notice an increase the heart rate. Your joints will become looser, which is beneficial because it increases blood flow to the muscles. Your circulation should also start to improve. All these elements should ready your body for any activity to come. Additionally, stretching before exercise can be great for improving flexibility and joint movement. According to the NHS feeling stretched before an exercise such as running can really help the joints move through their full range of movement more easily.1
Don't forget the cool down
Once you reach the end of your workout you're probably tempted to have a much-deserved rest. But before you do it's important to cool down. After each workout you complete, it's essential to gradually decrease intensity levels to help lower your heart rate and send your body back to a restful state. It will also help to prepare your muscles for your next workout.
Nicola says: 'Cooling down and completing some dynamic stretches will aid recovery by returning the muscles to their normal length, help any muscles soreness, reduce levels of lactic acid in the blood and generally support your body along with its repairing and recovery process.'
A workout warm-up to try at home
These six warm-up tips are suitable for any age or fitness ability, says Nicola. You don't need any equipment, simply complete each set of reps in order, twice. Don't forget - the warm up is about increasing range of movement rather than repetitions or pace, so take your time and focus on exaggerating each move.
- 10 shoulder circles: hands touching the shoulders, complete big circles of the elbows.
- 10 knee hugs: raise one knee at a time and hug it into your chest; alternate legs, five on each side.
- 10 torso twists: hands touching the elbows, take a wide stance and twist the torso.
- 10 heel kicks: bring one heel to the buttocks; alternate, 10 each side.
- 10 back taps: raise one arm high, bend at the elbow and touch hand in-between the shoulder blades; alternate and complete 10 on each side.
- 10 toe touches: push a leg out to the side, reach forward and touch the toe; repeat.
1 Do I need to stretch before exercise? NHS.uk