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Warming up and stretching prior to sport and exercise

Injury to muscle is one of the things we see regularly. It has traditionally been accepted practice that one should always warm up and stretch prior to commencing sport or exercise.

Warming up is important because it increases the temperature of the muscle and makes it more pliable. A more pliable muscle will make it less resistant to sudden stretch, decreasing the risk of injury. An increase in muscle temperature also results in increased blood flow to the tissue and increases the speed of muscular contractions and nerve transmissions.

There is no time limit to your warm up, rather it should produce a mild sweat without tiring you out. Your warm up should be tailored so that it is suitable for you and for the sport or exercise you are participating in.

Like warming up, stretching can also help to prevent injury. Stretching should be done after your warm up and ideally fifteen minutes prior to your activity (Woods et al, 2007). Stretching results in an increase in flexibility and a greater range of motion through which muscle can move before it gets injured. Stretches should be held in a state of near maximal stretch for 30 seconds. Some dynamic stretching should also be done that is specific to the activity you are doing.

It is important to note that stretching should be performed regularly, over a long term and not just for a few seconds before commencing your activity. It is also imperative that you know which muscle groups to stretch and that you stretch correctly.

At Total Physio, our physiotherapists are trained to identify tight muscle groups and can tailor make a specific stretching programme just for you.