When Isaac Newton published his laws of motion more than 300 years ago, he did not have athletic warm-ups in mind, but his first law does a great job explaining why they matter. The first law is about inertia, where a body at rest tends to stay at rest and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.
Your body does not want to do more work or exert more energy than it has to. So, as you get ready for practice and walk to the field, court, rink, gym, or pool, your heart is pumping just hard enough to get just enough blood to your lungs and muscles to get you where you're going. Your body isn't ready to start suddenly running, jumping, or swimming. It's still at rest. Warm-ups are the way to break the inertia and get your body into motion.
Warm-ups Start the Engine
Warm-ups gradually raise your heart rate and get you breathing a little faster. This increases blood flow to your heart, lungs, and muscles. The increased blood flow feeds your body more oxygen, energy, and nutrients to get ready to perform its best. It also starts the aerobic energy system which is important in any sport where the effort lasts more than a minute. The aerobic system takes several minutes to get into full swing. Getting it going before your game or practice makes easing into the game a lot easier.
Warm-ups Improve Mobility
Mobility is how far joints can move. Without a proper warm-up, your muscles will resist changing length, meaning your body will fight you during the start of your activity. Not only does this decrease your performance, but it makes an injury more likely. Taking 5 or 10 minutes to warm up will improve mobility, maximize performance, and reduce the risk of injury.
Warm-ups Maintain Stability
Warm-ups are also important to get your neuromuscular system firing on all cylinders. The neuromuscular system is essentially the communication system between your muscles and your brain. This is what tells muscles to contract, and how hard. It is also the system that lets your muscles tell your brain what position they're in, if they're being stretched, and if your joints are moving. By getting this system ready, you'll have better balance, react quicker, and have more power when you change speeds, kick, or throw.
While warm-ups may not seem important, taking a few minutes before a practice or a game gets your body ready to perform. Without a proper warm-up, you'll start with less energy, less motion, less coordination, less power, and be more likely to get hurt.
Ask your physical therapist about what warm-ups would work best for the activities you like to do. Looking for physical therapy in Rhode Island and Massachusetts? Contact Performance Physical Therapy at 401.726.7100 to schedule a free 15-minute evaluation with a physical therapist.