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While warm-up exercises are a vital first step in anyone's exercise program, they are especially important for older adults who may be less active or sedentary. A proper warm-up increases your heart rate and respiration and increases body temperature, which warms the muscles. Regardless of your activity level, it is essential to begin slowly and build up the level of your warm-ups over time. Because stretching cold muscles can cause muscle injury, do not substitute stretching exercises for a genuine warm-up, according to the Mayo Clinic. Ask your primary health-care provider for a clean bill of health before beginning any exercise program.
The purpose of a warm-up session is to prepare your body for a more active phase of exercise. As you progress through your warm-up routine, the increased blood flow throughout your body delivers additional oxygen to your muscles, which helps to improve muscle efficiency and reaction time. Performed correctly, a warm-up session also serves to reduce stress and tension in your body and mind, and mentally prepares you for your upcoming exercise session.
A brisk walk, jumping jacks or riding a stationary bicycle are suitable warm-up exercises for seniors in good health and physical condition. If you have a chronic health condition, or are recovering from an illness or medical procedure, a slow, leisurely walk might be a good alternative, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Chair exercises such as head, arm and shoulder rolls are suitable warm-ups for seniors with limited mobility. Whether seated or standing, marching in place with your arms swinging freely in opposition to your raised knee, will help your body to remain in balance. Ankle circles and leg extensions can also be performed from a standing or sitting position.
Because your body temperature will rise as you progress through your warm-ups, it is a good idea to dress in layers so you can remove your outer garment as your body heats up. While you should allow at least five to 10 minutes for your warm-up session, if you experience trouble breathing or become light-headed or dizzy, discontinue your activities and contact your doctor before continuing.
To keep your warm-up sessions fresh and interesting, choose several movements that suit your individual needs, and alternate them frequently. Try to remain conscious of your breathing pattern while exercising and avoid holding your breath. To ensure that you remain properly hydrated, keep a supply of cool -- not cold -- filtered water nearby, and take frequent sips before and during your exercise.