Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Fan Mail!!!

Dear Josh,

First time writer, long time follower. I’ve loved your blog from back in the early 2010’s. Those were wild times. However I have several questions for you in lettered format for easy answer and organization purposes.
1) Is it really necessary to warm up by jogging a bit to get your blood flowing BEFORE you start stretching?
2) I hate warming up before jumping into activities. I don’t start off with heavy weights but I normally do some martial arts routines as a start to warm up. Is that simply enough or would I further just hurt myself?
Thanks for taking time out to read the letter. I hope I don’t owe you money and keep up the good work.

Pudding Bordello

Hey Mike,

First off I would like to thank you for reading my blog… I was pretty sure no one was reading until now. Well, except my mommy… she loves me :-). Anyways, let’s talk about your question. This is actually not a straightforward answer. Surprisingly, the evidence in regards to stretching, warm-ups, and injury are mixed. But, I’ll do my best to give you some guidance

The Theory:

For stretching, the theory is simple: make the muscle fibers longer and extensible so they are less likely to tear or cramp during exercise.

For warm-ups, the theory is a bit more involved. There are actually several proposed benefits, but I’ll only describe a few. First, doing a light warm up raises the temperature of muscles and other tissues. Just how putty becomes more pliable with heat, muscles become more extensible, so again, less likely to tear or cramp during exercises. Other benefits include increasing speed of nerve impulses, increasing delivery of oxygen to muscles, and promotion of sweating. All of these benefits can enhance performance as well as reduce chance of injury.

The Application:
The Simpson's: Bart Gets an Elephant

Homer Simpson once said: (In response to Marge not wanting Bart to have an elephant) “Marge, I agree with you… in theory. In theory, communism works. In theory.”

In their wonderfully satirical way, the Simpson’s were making a point when it comes to theory and practical application. There are many human and environmental factors that make it difficult to directly measure if warming up and stretching reduces injury. For example: some people may be prone to injury, or some sports may have high injury rates.

The Research:

In a 2006 systematic review by Fradkin et al., they investigated the results of several studies that looked to see if a “warm-up” routine would reduce the risk of injury. Warm-up, in this study, was actually defined with three factors: aerobic exercise to increase body temperature, sport-specific stretching, and a period of activity with sport-specific movements. Five studies were found that met this criteria as well as other criteria to ensure the studies were of good quality.

Of the five, three found that a warm-up routine reduced the risk of injury. The other two found a warm-up routine to have no benefit compared to control groups (those who did not participate in a warm-up routine). Based on these findings, Fradkin et al. could not make a definite statement that a warm-up routine reduced the risk of injury. It’s basically inconclusive.

Thanks a lot, Fradkin. You’ve wasted my time with reading your confusing systematic review. I could have been eating ice cream and watching a Halloween special of The Simpson’s. I’m completely joking. The study did raise some interesting ideas though.

According to the authors of the study, the three studies that did show a benefit had warm-up routines that stressed aerobic exercise more than stretching. While the two that found no benefit stressed stretching more than aerobic exercise and sport-specific movements.

(*Side note: there were other limitations to the two “no benefit” studies, but I won’t go into detail about that.)

Whoa… looks like I’m starting to make a point here. Although the statements in the previous paragraph were observations by the authors and not actually conclusive evidence, it still supports the idea that short, non-fatiguing aerobic exercise before the main workout helps reduce the chance of injury.

Back to Your Question:

My answer to your question is… Don’t be lazy, warm up!
Enter the Dragon

Okay, so I only looked at one article. Well, technically I looked at three. But, I didn’t feel like talking about three, nor do I want you to go to sleep faster while reading this than you probably have already. But, based on the systematic review by Fradkin et al., you can’t go wrong with doing some light jogging or martial arts before hitting the weights. Assuming you aren’t trying to be Bruce Lee and overdue it on the martial arts, then the warm-up won’t hurt you; it can only help.

In my experience, I notice a difference if I just jump into activity. Old injuries start to become aggravated. My warm-up routine typically consists of stretching first, then some sport-specific movements. I’ll admit I don’t care for jogging beforehand either. But I’m just lazy… remember, I’d rather eat ice cream and watch The Simpson’s.

Mike, I hope this answers your questions. I won’t charge you just because I know you personally, and you probably won’t pay me anyways. Plus, I like your blog. Thanks for reading, and best of luck with your workouts!

Reference and Abstract:

Fradkin AJ, Gabbe BJ, and Cameron PA. Does warming up prevent injury in sport? The evidence from randomised controlled trials? Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2006;9:214-220

Background: The practice of warming up prior to exercise is advocated in injury prevention programs, but this is based on limited clinical evidence. It is hypothesized that warming up will reduce the number of injuries sustained during physical activity. Methods: A systematic review was undertaken. Relevant studies were identified by searching Medline (1966—April 2005), SPORTDiscus (1966—April 2005) and PubMed (1966—April 2005). This review included randomised controlled trials that investigated the effects of warming up on injury risk. Studies were included only if the subjects were human, and only if they utilised other activities than simply stretching. Studies reported in languages other than English were not included. The quality of included studies was assessed independently by two assessors. Results: Five studies, all of high quality (7—9 (mean = 8) out of 11) reported sufficient data (quality score >7) on the effects of warming up on reducing injury risk in humans. Three of the studies found that performing a warm-up prior to performance significantly reduced the injury risk, and the other two studies found that warming up was not effective in significantly reducing the number of injuries. Conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine warm-up prior to physical activity to prevent injury among sports participants. However, the weight of evidence is in favour of a decreased risk of injury. Further well-conducted randomised controlled trials are needed to determine the role of warming up prior to exercise in relation to injury prevention.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad we have a understanding. Now I can sleep at night on a pile of money surrounded by beautiful women