As a chiropractor, I am often asked about the importance of stretching and warming up before exercising to prevent back pain. So, I’ve put together the top six tips for warming up and stretching before you hit the gym this January.

  • Warm up before stretching. Make sure your warm up slowly over a period of five minutes or so. Everyone’s warm up is different. Your optimal warm up is going to be a process that you have to tweak until it’s dialed in perfectly for you.
  • Get your heart rate up during the warm up. This is the purpose of the warm up. For healthy adults, it is recommended to get your heart rate up during your initial warm by doing low intensity exercises like a brisk walk, a slow jog, or riding a recumbent bike.
  • Focus your warm-ups on the muscles your targeting during your activity. The whole idea of warming up is to increase your blood flow to the muscles you are going to use during your workout. Perform the same movement patterns you will use during the specified exercise. Move your muscles and joints through all ranges of motion that you are planning to do during the workout. For example, if you are going to play golf, before you start your round, start swinging your golf club slowly through the range of motion forwards and backwards. This will involve your arm muscles, shoulders, back and hips and get them all warmed up and ready to play on the course.
  • Take your time to stretch after you warm up. Plan to spend between 5-8 minutes stretching after the initial warm-up. This insures that your body is moving blood to more specifc areas that you are using to decrease the likelihood of a pulled muscle or have a sprain/strain injury.
  • Breath deeply. During the entire warm up and stretching period, make sure you breathing in through the nose and out through pursed lips. This will help to increase oxygen flow to your muscles to prepare you for your work out.
  • Cooling down. Make sure to take at least 2-3 minutes after your workout to bring your heart rate down allowing your body time to recover. Begin the cool down gradually as you wrap up your exercise routine. Keep the joints moving through the same range of motion as your work-out. Complete the same stretches used during your pre-activity routine.