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How Does Warming Up Prevent Injury While Exercising?

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 05, 2020

How Does Warming Up Prevent Injury While Exercising?

For people who are just starting to work out, one common question is “does warming up prevent injury?’

You have probably heard it a few times when you were younger, especially during your Physical Education classes. Teachers always say that stretching and warming up helps your muscles get ready and lowers the risk of injury.

And it makes sense right? Doing basic exercises before any sports or physical activity should help your body get ready. But is there any scientific basis to this age-old advice?

Let’s find out!

Does Warming Up Prevent Injury?

Warming up before doing any exercise or physical activity is done by almost everyone who engages in exercise. The logic behind this is that warming up can help prevent injuries by stretching your muscles and joints, and getting your body ready for exercise.

While this is a widely held belief, and almost all sports physicians agree that warming up is important, the science behind it has not exactly been proven yet.

In fact, we still know very little about warming up, or if it is even necessary before working out or engaging in physical activity.

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What Do Studies Say?

According to various studies done about warming up, there might actually be some truth to the belief that it can reduce injuries.

For the most part, the results of studies have been mixed.

Most studies have shown that when athletes warm up, there is a lower risk of injury while engaging in physical activity. Meanwhile, other studies have found that there was no discernible difference between warming up and not warming up.

However, all studies show that warming up poses no risk whatsoever to people engaging in physical activity.

There is just insufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine warm-up prior to physical activity to prevent injury. However, the weight of evidence is in favor of a decreased risk of injury. So, why not warm up before doing exercise?

How Should You Warm Up Before Physical Activity?

Here is a simple warm up routine that you can do before exercising or any physical activity:

Do a 3 minute march in place

  • First off, start marching in place for at least 3 minutes.
  • Be sure to move your arms up and down as you march
  • Try to bend your knees up to waist level if you can
  • Keep your elbows bent, and your fists soft

Heel digs for 1 minute

  • Next, you should try doing some heel digs.
  • In order to do heel digs, stand up straight and move one foot forward, digging your heel into the floor as you go.
  • Alternate each foot, and try to do at least 60 heel digs in 1 minute.
  • Be sure to keep your toes pointed upward, and bend your supporting leg as you dig forward.
  • You can also raise your arms to help keep your balance.

does warming up prevent injury

30-second knee lifts

  • In order to do knee lifts, stand up straight and then bring up one knee to touch the opposite hand. For example, if you are raising your right knee, raise it up to touch your left hand.
  • Now do the same with the other knee, and keep doing it for 30 seconds.
  • Ideally, you should do 30 knee lifts in 30 seconds.
  • Shoulder rolls

    • Shoulder rolls are a great way to help stretch your shoulders and your arm muscles.
    • In order to do shoulder rolls, stand straight up and march in place. While marching, roll your shoulders forward 5 times, and then backward 5 times. Keep your hands loose and at your sides.
    • You should do 2 sets of 10 repetitions each when warming up.
    • Knee bends

      • Lastly, do some knee bends.
      • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and stretch out your hands in front of you.
      • Bend your knees slightly and then stand straight up.
      • Do this for at least 10 repetitions.

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      Cool Down Exercises Are Just as Important

      Aside from warm up exercises, cool down exercises are also important to do. Cool down exercises help slowly bring your body to rest especially after an intense workout.

      Stopping suddenly after working out can cause problems as your heart is still beating fast and pumping blood throughout your body. This can cause you to pass out or feel sick since your body has not yet “cooled down’—so to speak.

      Cool down exercises are pretty simple to do, and take very little effort.

      Here are some of the steps to follow when doing cool down exercises:

      • Walk for about 5 minutes, or until your heart rate slows down. About 120 beats per minute should be your goal.
      • Stretch your body after exercising. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, and it should feel strong, not painful. If you feel any pain, stop immediately to prevent further injury
      • When stretching, avoid “bouncing’ as the goal here is to stretch your muscles and joints.
      • Breathe when you are stretching. Breathe out as you stretch, and breathe in while holding the stretch.

      Key Takeaways

      By following these warm up and cool down exercises, you should be able to reduce your risk of getting injured while working out or doing sports.

      Ideally, you should engage in 30 minutes of exercise daily, or at least 150 minutes of exercise each week in order to keep your body strong and healthy.

      Learn more about Health and Fitness here.


      Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

      Medically reviewed by

      Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

      General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

      Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Oct 05, 2020

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