As I’m writing this, the temperature is forecast to drop to highs in the upper 20s during the day and lows into the teens. Remember the summer temperatures and how we longed for cooler air because it was blazing hot? The cooler temps are here and now we’re looking for ways to warm up.

We should also be looking for ways to warm up before exercising or playing sports. Why do we need to warm up? Warming up the body before exercise is good just as chewing our food before swallowing is good. When we chew our food our body can digest it better. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), when we warm up before exercising, good things happen to let the body know it’s time for exercise. 

  • Our brain shifts into physical activity gear.
  • Our joints start to move through their full range of motion.
  • Our heart rate gradually increases to handle the increased load of exercise.
  • Our muscles are practicing movements before the intensity increases.
  • We reduce our potential for injury.

Resistance (weight lifting or muscle strengthening) training, playing sports and participating in cardiovascular (aerobic, or with oxygen) exercises should be preceded by a warm up exercise. Warm up exercises should be done for one to three minutes and about five or ten times for each movement. 

Before resistance training, make dynamic stretches to warm up the muscles and get them ready for the workout. Move your joints through their full range of motion with no resistance (dynamic stretching) instead of holding a steady position (static stretch). Do the static stretching after your workout. Static stretching tells your muscles to relax.

Before playing sports, make the sport movements in low intensity to let the body get used to the movements. This also helps the brain create muscle memory which helps during the sport time. Your body remembers the movement learned in warm up.

Before cardiovascular exercise, warm up. A lot of people push themselves right into high intensity aerobic exercise and should be warming up first. Use the same type of warm up that sports and resistance training requires.

Think of your body as you would a carburetor engine. Most vehicles now have fuel injected engines and don’t need that warm up time. Some of you may remember the days of vehicles with carburetors. We had to wait and let them warm up before we pushed them to higher RPMs. Our body is the same.

Enjoy your carburetor engine body. Here’s to you choosing to eat well, sleep well and exercise in the new year.

Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the December 22, 2016 edition of the Seaford Star.