You may be tempted to skip the warm-up the next time you exercise. Resist that temptation; go ahead and spend several minutes preparing your body for the increased workload. Here are the benefits.

How to warm-up
Warming up is not the same as stretching, which should be avoided when muscles are cold. Warming up usually consists of low-key cardiovascular activity such as walking or jogging before running. To warm up, gently use all the same muscles you plan to use for the fitness activity. The length of your warm-up will depend on how intensely you plan to exercise. Generally, the more intensely you plan to exercise the longer you will want to warm up. For most people, between 5 and 30 minutes is sufficient.

rp_photodune-8489567-woman-walking-outdoors-xs.jpgHelp your heart prepare for the extra workload
Warming up is a way of preparing your body for exercise. You can think of it in much the same way as you would think of warming up your car before driving on a cold day. Low-intensity warm ups gradually increase heart rate and circulation so you are better prepared to handle higher intensity exercise. Taking time to warm up will also increase your body temperature, so you perform like a well-oiled machine.

Loosen joints for more flexibility
Warming up shows your body some love. As your body temperature increases you’ll loosen your joints and increase blood flow to your muscles. That means less stress on joints and tendons. Warm, well-lubricated joints prepare the body to execute sudden and/or explosive movements with ease. You’ll reduce the likelihood of acute injury and perform with greater power, too. Warm muscles also reduce the incidence of overuse injuries.

Boost performance
Visualize performing at the highest level. Warm-ups give you time to prepare mentally for your workout so you enjoy exercise more. Know that investing warm up time will help you perform with more flexibility, speed, and strength. That makes it easier to get into the zone. When your body is better able to handle the demands you make on it with exercise you can tackle new personal bests and have less soreness or stiffness later.

Make warming up a standard part of your fitness routine. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of injury, improve performance and make exercise more fun. Giving your body time to adjust to an increased workload will make you a better athlete.