Warming up before exercise is vital, it serves two purposes, to enhance performance and prevent injury. A warmup is a period of time devoted prior to doing physical exercise and usually consists of light cardiovascular exercises combined with stretches. Most recommendations for the length of a warm up is between 10-20 minutes. The idea is to prepare the body physically and mentally for the main activity. Keep the warm up mostly at a low intensity at the beginning and then gradually increase as you progress through the warm-up period. Keeping the muscles warm prior to activity has not only shown to decrease the chances of acute injuries such as muscle strains and overuse injuries but it will also decrease muscle soreness post exercise.
There is also a mental component to warming up as mentioned, which is very important. It allows the mind to be prepared for the activity. There is evidence suggesting that mentally preparing/visualising for the activity or event can improve technique, skill and co-ordination. It also prepares the athlete for possible discomfort experienced during activity. If the mind is not ready or not focussed, then physical performance may be limited and could increase the risk of injury.
What happens to the body during a warm up?