Exercise is Medicine and when done properly can improve your quality and longevity of life. Improving health and fitness can be done by being physically active, recreating, performing specific exercises, and following targeted workouts. For optimal outcomes as we workout, or just go through work or live our day, we must prepare our body for the demands of the day and then prepare it for the recovery process which includes a series of movements, hydration, nutrition, and rest. No matter what the activity, you should follow a basic plan including a warm-up, the routine, and the warm-down.
Many people fail to follow this simple strategy and either skip the warm-up and/or the warm-down due to perceived time constraints and lack of understanding of the important role they play in the performance of the human body. These oversights can increase the risk of injuries and reduce the performance of the body. Over time continued disregard of warm-ups and warm-downs will cause injury and keep you from reaching your goals.
LET’S TALK WARM-UP:
The warm-up prepares the body for the upcoming demands of the program or workday. Activating the appropriate core muscles – abs and lower back – early in the day will help the upper and lower bodies work together throughout the day. Walking and moving slowly is a great way to get started and gradually increases blood flow to allow for optimal circulation and sustained workout duration. The idea is to do some light level of activity for a few minutes (5-10) minutes followed by some dynamic flexibility exercises (leg swings, arm swings, squats, push-ups) followed by some static stretching if tightness is still present.
NOW THE WORKOUT OR WORKDAY:
If you treat your workday as a workout then think about taking time during a meeting to work on your posture, walk while talking to someone on the phone at lunch, then take time to stretch out after sitting for a while. Some people do little things through the day and others workout in one longer session. If you do a workout, your will have a specific set of activities you put into a combination. Activities can focus on cardiovascular improvements, balance, spinal stability, muscular strength and endurance. Other activities such as yoga, group exercise, etc. are recommended.
AND NOW, THE WARM-DOWN:
The warm-down is a critical part of the workout and is required for safety and recovery reasons. Doing some easy activities such as light biking or walking will suffice to assist the body in slowing down and redistributing the blood from the working muscles to the internal organs. If you do not allow this process to occur, you put yourself at risk for fainting and a potential cardiovascular event. Do light level activity to slow the heart for a bit, then do some static (slow) stretching to release the tension built up in the muscular system. This also allows for greater flexibility and improved recovery for the following day.
The following are some examples of warm-up and warm -down activities to consider when you begin your workday or workout program:
- 5 minutes of core activation exercises
- 5 minutes of general movement – walking – at a slow pace.
- Dynamic activity including arm swings, leg swings, body squats and push ups
- Static (slow) stretching as needed per your pre-existing condition
- 5-10 minutes of walking or biking at a slow pace.
- 10 minutes of static (slow) stretching, holding stretches for 30 seconds or more
- Relaxation such as a visualization exercise, meditation, or prayer
- Hydrate and within 30 minutes eat something with a carbohydrate and protein mixture
Following these recommendations will assist you in reaching goals faster, improve the quality and quantity of your workout, and assist in reducing your risk of injury. Enjoy!