Whatever your favourite form of recreation, you’re probably looking for a way to perform better, recover faster, and reduce your chance of injury. One strategy can contribute to all three outcomes: warm-ups. Before you take your car out, you let the engine warm up; we need to do the same with our muscles, joints and ligaments.
This is especially important for the “weekend warrior”. We all lead busy lives and work hard. So when it comes time for the weekend, we play hard too. Participating in strenuous activities without good, consistent conditioning can be more harmful than good. It is better and safer for your bones and joints to keep up a level of fitness throughout the week. And, stretching before physical activity helps to reduce the risk of injury during the chosen activity.
The specific warm-up depends on the activity. Skiers want to stretch their thighs and leg muscles, while for golfers the focus is on shoulders and backs. How much prep time you need depends how stiff you are – so listen to your body. Just a few minutes will help get your blood flowing and loosen you up.
Muscles just work better if they’re warmed-up and stretched, and cool downs after your activity are just as important. If you’ve overloaded your muscles, they can get tight and you can get cramps. Set a “post-game” routine of stretching out the same muscle groups, again just for a minute or two. Several studies show that warm-ups decrease injuries, and at the very least stretching before and after recreation reduces muscle soreness the next day.