Walking Club Check-In: Don't Forget to Warm Up

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Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Warm Up Before You WalkWelcome, or welcome back, to the Dr. Sinatra Walking Club. If you missed the "official introduction," you can see it here. Each Saturday, I post a new Walking Club Check-in, where you can post your minutes walked, the number of times you walked, or miles by leaving a comment.

Today, I want to talk about the importance of warming up...

Do you warm up and stretch before you walk? I have to confess that for a long time I didn't. I'd just open the door and go. But what Dr. Sinatra explained is that most injuries that occur while exercising are caused by not warming up and/or stretching before beginning.

Intense exercise without warming up dumps more fatty acids into your bloodstream than muscles need. These excess fatty acids can end up lining blood vessel walls. Also, sudden intense exertion can shock your heart, greatly increasing the risk of heart attack. That's all I had to hear to motivate me to warm up before I walk.

As Dr. Sinatra explains it, warming up raises your heart rate gradually and facilitates the breakdown of glucose and fatty acids. Stretching gradually loosens muscles, tendons, and other tissues so they are more flexible and absorb shock or injury better. Many exercises, especially weight lifting and running, decrease range in motion unless you stretch.

Never stretch cold muscles, for you risk tearing them. First, warm up by walking in place or riding a stationary bicycle for five minutes. When you stretch, do not hold your breath. Stretch slowly and hold the position just short of pain. Avoid bouncing.

Here are some stretches to start you off:

* One-quarter Head Circles: Starting with your ear near your shoulder on one side, rotate your head around to the front, ending with your ear near your shoulder on the other side. Roll your head back to the other side. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

* Arm Circles: With one arm, make a backward circle with palm facing out, thumb pointed up. Repeat 10 to 15 times with each arm. Then make forward arm circles with palm facing in, thumb pointed down. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

* Calf Stretch: Stand an arm's-length from a wall. Lean into it, bracing yourself with your arms. Place one leg forward with knee bent. Do not put weight on this leg. Your other leg should be back, with knee straight and heel down. Keeping your back straight, move hips toward wall until you feel a stretch. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat with other leg.

Cooling down. The final 5 to 10 minutes of your walk should be done at an easy pace. When finished, repeat the stretches you did after your warm-up. Cooling-down stretches gradually decrease the intensity of exercising, improve flexibility, and help your body return to its resting state. Plus, as Dr. Sinatra explains it, cooling down discourages blood from pooling, removes metabolic waste products from the bloodstream, reduces soreness, and lowers risk of cardiovascular complications.

Now, it's your turn:

* Do you warm up and cool down?

* Also, if you walked this week--please log in your days/miles/or time walked!

Have a great Saturday, and Happy Walking!

Karen


Remember to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

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