Have you been feeling some new aches and pains after your run, bike ride, dance class or workout? If so, paying a little more attention to warming up correctly may help your muscles.
Warming up properly increases blood flow and gets more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, helping to prepare them for the coming activity1. The warm up should consist of light cardiovascular activity and stretching. The cardiovascular exercise, such as running on the spot, can help loosen your muscles as well as getting them ready for the stress of exercise. Stretching will ensure that your joints, tendons and ligaments are all gradually prepared for your workout, and can also provide the body with a number of benefits which are highlighted below:
Stretching helps you to2:
• Reduce muscle tension, helping your body to feel more relaxed.
• Improve your range of motion.
• Prevent strains because pre-stretched muscle resists stress.
• Reduce the risk of back problems.
• Reduce muscular pain.
Learning to stretch
Stretching may sound simple enough, but it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips3:
- Always warm your muscles with some light cardio before you start the stretching part of your warm-up. Cold muscles do not stretch easily.
- It is advisable not to "bounce" while stretching, as it may cause injury.
- Hold the stretch to the point where you feel the muscle start to loosen, about 20-30 seconds, then stop and repeat a few times for each of the muscle groups you plan to use.
- You may feel some discomfort when stretching. In fact, if you don't, you may not be stretching correctly. But stop if you feel pain. Once you have stretched the muscle correctly the discomfort should disappear.
- Don't hold your breath when stretching. Instead, try to keep a good regular breathing rhythm going all of the time. This helps to relax the body, increase the bloodflow, and remove the negative by-products of exercise4.
Before and after exercise
Remember, too much exertion without having warmed up and stretched correctly can lead to pulled or torn muscles. It's amazing just how many different muscles groups can be involved when doing different activities, so make sure you stretch all of the muscles that you will be using.
It is also advisable to stretch after your activities. Doing so helps to reset your body to its natural position and posture as you "warm down" from your exertions. This can be especially important for those muscles that have had the greatest use.
Dealing with aches and pains after exercise
Aches and pains that may result from your activities can be soothed away with massage, a hot bath or simply resting. However, when muscles are strained, substances called prostaglandins can be released at the site of the strain, stimulating pain receptors and often leading to muscle ache.
So, you may feel a pain reliever could bring you some pain relief quickly. Ibuprofen is the active ingredient in Nurofen, which is available as an over the counter pain reliever. This well-known medication has been scientifically established to act by inhibiting the formation of prostaglandins in your body including muscles (the chemicals in your body which cause pain) and help relieve that pain. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, so will reduce the swelling that is often associated with muscle pain and soreness.
You can find out more about how Nurofen could help your aches and muscular pain here. But don't forget, warming up and stretching may help you avoid muscle damage in the first place. So get yourself into a good routine both before and after all physical activities. Don't be in a hurry. Always give yourself enough time to warm up and warm down correctly, and always make sure you give yourself a good stretch before embarking on any physical exercise.