Exercise is vital for physical and mental health. It benefits our lives in many ways but the CDC estimates that more than 75% of Americans don’t get enough. Are you starting up again after surgery, illness, or injury or an always on-the-move fitness buff? Either way, stretching, warming up, and cooling down are the most important parts of your routine. Skipping these steps could result in damage that requires orthopedic care down the road.
Orthopedists at Pacific Surgical Center offer minimally invasive, outpatient surgery for many musculoskeletal injuries. These typically include issues with bone, muscle, joint, cartilage, and ligament. They also help with arthritis, osteoporosis, sports injuries, and ongoing pain. Treatment can address the feet, ankles, shoulder, leg, knee, hand, arm, or other trouble spots.
Sometimes an injury can be avoided through warm-up and stretching both before and after exercise sessions. Fitness experts explain that “Performing a warm-up routine involves the process of slightly raising your body temperature while increasing blood and oxygen circulation throughout your body…By performing a stretching routine prior to your weight training exercise workout, you will increase the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the soft tissue (i.e. muscles) of your body. This will prepare your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skeletal frame for the weight training routine that you are going to perform.”
These are both important because “regularly performing a stretching routine will improve your joint flexibility and range of motion, decrease the probability of injury, relieve tension and stress, and even accelerate the healing process associated with several types of injuries.”
As warming up raises the temperature of your body and increases blood flow, it readies the body to start moving. Stretching increases circulation to the soft tissues so they’ll be ready to take on whatever activity is on the day’s schedule.
Equally important is cooling down after your workout, fitness class, hike, session, or game. The Mayo Clinic explains that “Sure, a warmup and cool-down may add a few minutes to your exercise routine, but they might also reduce stress on your heart and other muscles…Cooling down is similar to warming up. You generally continue your workout session for five minutes or so but at a slower pace and reduced intensity.”
But they acknowledge that for most of us “Finding time for regular aerobic workouts—plus warming up and cooling down—can be challenging. But with a little creativity, you can probably fit it in. For example, walking to and from the gym can be your warmup and cool-down.”
Warm-up and cool-down exercises don’t have to be complicated. Consider them an easier, less intense version of the activity you’re preparing to do. Start and end your jogging time by walking for a few minutes. Or get ready for your team’s big game with jumping jacks, leg bends, lunges, squats, and making circles with ankles, wrists, and shoulders.
Professors at Penn State say that warming up decreases the chance of injury or pulling a muscle, joint pain, and can reduce soreness after exercise is complete. Cooling down helps safely and slowly lower your heart rate and breathing, avoid fainting and dizziness, remove lactic acid from your muscles, and prepare muscles for future exercise.
Not warming up or stretching properly can lead to overexertion of muscles. Pushing yourself too hard physically “can cause inflammation, leading to pain and discomfort. If it is not addressed, overexertion can lead to tearing or overstretching in muscles, tendons, and ligaments,” say doctors. “The most common overexertion injuries affect the neck and back, often contributing to chronic pain in the upper and lower back. If you get an overexertion injury, you can be at a higher risk for re-injury, even after you have healed.”
Always speak with your primary care team before starting a workout plan. They know your medical history and ongoing issues so will advise the best course to follow for minimizing damage to your joints and muscles. If you’ve had an accident or injury, consider calling Pacific Surgical Center at 360-442-7900 to get back on your feet again quickly, safely, and pain-free.
PSC doctors work hard to keep recovery times minimal and reduce unnecessary, often expensive, return visits for prep-work and follow-up. They’re always happy to answer questions and will work with your doctors to develop a personalized treatment plan for your active—or soon to be active—daily lifestyle. The first step is the hardest, but each one after that pays off through a healthy body and mind.