Whether you’re in the gym or wrapping up for a brisk power walk outdoors, you should always warm up properly before beginning a workout. In cold weather, it’s well worth spending a bit of extra time warming up to reduce the risk of injuries.
Warm-up exercises increase your core body temperature and make your muscles, tendons and ligaments warmer and more pliable.
In turn, this makes you more flexible and aids a fuller range of motion through the joints, which helps reduce the risk of injuries caused by rushing straight into an exercise with cold muscles.
A warm-up can be done indoors or out. If you are outside, wear lots of layers, then you can then peel these off gradually as you warm up.
Start with either a gentle walk or a march on the spot. Do this for a couple of minutes, then increase the intensity a little.
If you are walking, walk a little faster and really move your arms. For marching on the spot, march faster and add some arm circles. Continue doing this for a couple more minutes or until you feel warm.
The last part of your warm-up is to stretch. This should only ever be done once you are warm, as you can cause an injury if you stretch a muscle when it is cold.
Five basic warm-up stretches
Find a flat surface to perform these five basic stretches.
1. Chest stretch. Stand with good posture. Take your arms behind you and lift your shoulders up and back to feel the chest stretch. Hold for 10 seconds.
2. Back stretch. Stand with good posture. Keep your knees soft and tummy pulled in. Take your arms in front of you and imagine you are hugging a big beach ball. Feel the stretch in your back. Hold for 10 seconds.
3. Calf stretch. Step back with one leg. Keep the leg straight and the heel down, with both feet pointing forwards. Rest your hands on the bent leg. Feel the stretch in your lower leg. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Quadricep stretch. Stand with good posture. Bend one leg behind you and gently hold the foot or sock of the bent leg. Push your hips forward to feel the stretch in the front of your thigh. Keep the supporting knee slightly bent. Hold 10 seconds on each leg.
5. Hamstring stretch. Stand straight, then bend one leg and extend the other out straight with the heel on the floor and toes pointing up. Place both hands on your bent leg and stick your bottom out to feel stretch along the back of the straight leg. Hold for 20 seconds on each leg.
Cooling down after exercising
It is also important to cool down after your workout, so remember to bring the pace down towards the end of your session.
If you are walking, for example, slow your pace right down over a couple of minutes. Then perform the same stretches as you did for the warm-up: this will help prevent aching in the muscles, as the stretches relieve tension.