How to warm up effectively in winter

Our muscles are much like rubber bands and work more effectively when they are warm, so they can lengthen and recoil smoothly. But as the temperature outside begins to get cooler, our muscles and joints take that little bit longer to warm up and work at their best. As a result, it’s important to consider an extended warm up of at least 10-15 minutes, before commencing exercise. Exercising cold muscles can be quite risky and can lead to injury. It is for this reason that dynamic stretching should be incorporated into your warm up initially.

Dynamic stretches

Dynamic stretches are active movements where joints and muscles go through full range of movement. They are a great way to warm up your body before exercise and can be functional and mimic the movement of the activity you’re about to perform. For example, if you’re about to go walking or jogging, you might like to consider marching/jogging on the spot, leg swings (backwards, forwards and side to side), body rotations, star jumps and lunges. Alternatively, if you are going swimming, you might include arm circles, trunk twists and other chest and shoulder mobility exercises.

Once your muscles and joints are warm, you can proceed with your planned exercise session and slowly increase the intensity where appropriate. Remember the main part of your exercise session should be at a ‘lightly puffing’ intensity and you should be able to maintain a conversation. Thirty minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise is recommended for people living with diabetes and this can be a combination of both aerobic and resistance training.

Static stretches

Traditional static stretches should also be included at the end of your exercise session, as part of your cool down, when your muscles are more responsive to stretching or lengthening. Stretch all of the major muscle groups you have exercised during your session. So, with walking/jogging it is recommended you stretch your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, quads and calves. Whereas with swimming you would focus on your chest, shoulders and upper back muscles. Stretches should be held for 30 seconds and it is important to maintain normal breathing, as opposed to holding your breath.

 

Some other things to consider when exercising during winter

Weather forecast – stay up to date with local weather conditions to best plan the timing of your exercise session.

Dress warmly – consider wearing layers, so you can remove outer layers as you start to warm up and put them back on at the end of your exercise session.

Foot care – ensure you wear appropriate, supportive, warm footwear to protect your feet.

Fluid intake – although it might be cooler, you still need to hydrate adequately, so carry water with you.

Sun protection – just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburnt, wear sunscreen and possibly a hat for protection.

Exercise program – consider an individually tailored program through an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.

 

By Hayley Nicholson, Exercise Physiologist CDE

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