Today I have a couple of questions. First, how many of you would take your car out of the garage on a cold morning and immediately accelerate to 60 mph? Right, I didn't think you'd do that.
Now, how many of you would go to the gym and plunge right into a workout without first warming up? Aha! Just as I suspected!
I can't tell you the number of times I've been at my gym and watched through the big front windows as someone gets out of his or her car, walks across the parking lot and into the gym, jumps on the treadmill and promptly punches it up to an oxygen-gulping, heart-pounding speed. Their cardiorespiratory systems are probably screaming, "What the ... ?"
Skipping the warm-up before aerobic exercise can be an unhealthy or even dangerous practice. Just as our cars benefit from a gradual transition between idling and hurtling along in fith gear, so, too, do our bodies.
One of the important physiological benefits of a warm-up is that it helps gradually redistribute the blood flow to exercising muscles. Plunge immediately into intense aerobic exercise and it's unlikely that your heart and lungs will be able to keep up with the muscles' demand for oxygen. You could end up hyperventilating or quickly fatiguing.
Regardless of the type of aerobic exercise you do, it's always a good idea to spend the first five minutes of the activity gradually elevating your heart rate until it reaches the target range.
I'm guessing that for most people who skip the warm-up, time is the issue. But what's an extra five minutes when you're already planning to spend 30 or 40 minutes or even more at an activity? A warm-up is a pretty small investment that can pay big dividends.
A cool-down at the other end of the workout is equally important, but I'll save that discussion for Wednesday.