Warming Up to Exercise
Getting off the couch and into an exercise program? Great!

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Picture of person jogging on a treadmill Warming Up to Exercise

Getting off the couch and into an exercise program? Great! But before you hit the ground running, you'll want to develop a warm-up routine.

You may be psyched to pump iron and burn calories, but you could do more damage than good if you jump right into it without taking the time to bring your body up to speed.

Some people think a warm-up is just a bit of bending and stretching before you work out. But there's more to warming up than that. A warm-up should include a progressive aerobic activity that uses the muscles you will be exercising.

Why warm up? You need to take five to 10 minutes to raise the core temperature of your body and your muscles. This prepares the muscles and joints for more intense activity. According to the American Council on Exercise, warm-ups also help to:

  • Improve the elasticity of your muscles
  • Promote circulation
  • Give you better muscle control
  • Reduce muscle fatigue

A general warm-up can be any light, continuous movements using the large muscle groups. This might be marching or jogging in place. Your warm-up should produce a little sweat, but not leave you feeling fatigued. Some people opt to include flexibility or stretching exercises after they have finished the aerobic activity.

For fitness or weight loss
Before you start any fitness program, talk to your doctor about what activity is right for you. To get fit and lose weight, keep these points in mind:

  • Concentrate on aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging and cycling.
  • Ease into your workout routine. If you can only be active for 10 minutes at a time at first, that's fine. Add another minute every one or two workouts. Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. That can break down to 5, 30-minute sessions. Need to break it down even more? You can workout for as little as 10 minutes at a time and still reap the benefits.
  • Add in muscle-strengthening exercises. Strength train at least 2 times per week. You can use weights or your own body weight for resistance. Examples include sit-ups, push-ups and lunges.
  • Choose an exercise that you enjoy. Change your workout from time to time to prevent boredom and relapse.

When pressed for time, the warm-up period is usually the first thing to go. Don't let this happen to you. Warming up is as important as the exercise itself. It makes your workout more efficient, more productive and most importantly, safer. Don't forget to take a few minutes to cool down as well, after your exercise.

By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
Created on 01/18/2002
Updated on 01/18/2012
  • American Council on Exercise. Warm up to work out.
  • American College of Sports Medicine. Strength, power and the baby boomer
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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