You may think you're saving time, but you're actually just compromising the first 5 to 10 minutes of your workout. "Your body literally needs to warm up so that blood flow increases, the nervous system wakes up, and the body starts to use energy and oxygen more efficiently," says Michael Bracko, a sports physiologist and director at the Institute for Hockey Research in Calgary. The upshot: Every step feels like less of a slog, and calorie burn kicks into high gear.
The Solution: Bracko says that the best warm-up is to do your chosen exercise at a low intensity. Runners, for example, should walk, then jog. "Keep at it until you break a sweat," Bracko says. Alternately, you can try "dynamic" stretches, which are moves that take your body through the range of motions you're about to do. For a runner, that can mean high knees, butt kicks, and forward, reverse, and side lunges. "Avoid static stretching, where you're holding poses for several counts. That actually calms the system down and can impair performance," Bracko adds.
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