physiotherapist don mills and steeles

By: Team Family Physio

Physiotherapists and Massage Therapists

Stretching and warming up are two essential components of any workout or exercise routine. Both are important for maintaining flexibility, reducing the risk of injury, and improving your physical performance. However, many people often confuse the two or don't know when to stretch or warm up. In this blog post, we'll discuss the difference between stretching and warming up, the benefits of each, and how to incorporate them into your daily routine. This post is mainly for patients without any medical background who are interested in learning more about proper exercise techniques.

Are stretching and warming up the same?

The most common misconception in stretching and warming up is that they're interchangeable when they're not. Warming up increases the blood flow to the muscles, thus warming them up, while stretching helps to loosen up the joints and improve mobility. If you don't warm up and stretch, you may run the risk of injury.

Stretching vs. warming up

Before we even dive into when to stretch and warm up, let's first understand the importance of both. A proper warm-up before exercise helps to reduce the risk of injury, prepare the body for a workout and enhance your performance. It can consist of low-intensity cardio exercises, static and dynamic stretches, and mobility work.

Stretching, on the other hand, helps to improve flexibility, range of motion, and prevents muscle soreness after exercising. It can include either static stretching and dynamic stretching.

Static stretching

Static stretching is when you hold a stretch in a fixed position for an extended period. The goal of a static stretch is to increase your range of motion or the length of a muscle.

Dynamic stretching

Stretching and warming up, sports physiotherapist markham

Dynamic stretching involves moving a joint or muscle through its full range of motion. As its name suggests, dynamic stretches are generally quicker movements that don't involve holding the lengthened position for a long period of time.

Looking for a more specific stretch routine before you run? Check out our blog on preventing running injuries.

When you should warm up

So, when should you warm up? It's recommended that you do a warm-up before starting any exercise routine or sport. A good warm-up should last at least 10-15 minutes and should consist of a low-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging or cycling, and mobility exercises that mimic the movements of your workout. This will get your heart rate up, warm up your body, and increase blood flow to your muscles before you start exercising. Exercising with warmed up muscles and joints reduces your risk of injuring them.

When you should stretch

And when should you stretch? Stretching can be done either before or after your workout. Static stretches that you hold for 20-30 seconds are best done after your workout or at the end of your day when your muscles are warm. Dynamic stretching should be done before a workout, as it can help to prepare your muscles for the upcoming activities and warm them up.

Stretching and warming up are both important

Knowing when to stretch or warm-up is crucial, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one person may not work for another. Factors such as your physical activity, fitness level, age, and body type should dictate the most appropriate practice to use. If you are unsure about which practice to use, consult with a physiotherapist that has training and experience in preventing and managing orthopedic and sports injuries. Remember to listen to your body's signals and adapt your practices accordingly. By following the best practices for stretching and warming up, you can optimize your physical activity experience while minimizing the risk of injury.

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