Massage is now recognized as an important part of a complete physical fitness routine. Not only can massage reduce stress and relieve anxiety, but it also has tangible fitness benefits. Here’s how you can incorporate massage into your fitness regimen.
The Fitness Benefits of Massage
Massage has a number of fitness related benefits. They include:
- Massage increases blood flow to the muscles, so that they’re better nourished. Fatigued muscles need the oxygen and nutrients that increased blood flow supplies, so that your body can build more muscle tissue and make your muscles stronger and more dense.
- Massage helps your body eliminate lactic acid and other toxins that can build up in the muscles during a workout, so you’ll need less recovery time after a workout. Massage also helps stave off the symptoms of overtraining.
- Massage helps improve flexibility and range of motion in muscles and joints. It also strengthens connective tissues and can help your muscles and tissues heal faster. Massage can also help break down scar tissue in your muscles.
- Massage can help you lose weight by helping your body absorb and burn fat stored under the skin. Massage can also help lower your stress levels, which can help you keep weight off, since your body is more likely to store extra calories as fat when you’re feeling chronically stressed.
Adding Massage to Your Fitness Routine
If you exercise for 30 minutes three to five times a week, it’s easy to add massage to your fitness routine. If possible, schedule a professional massage once or twice a week. If you work out for longer than 30 minutes and more often than three to five times a week, or if you’ve just performed a particularly hard workout, you may want to consider a sports massage.
A sports massage is a type of Swedish massage that’s administered within two hours of your workout. Most spas and gyms offer sports massages; take advantage of this service after a particularly hard workout. You can also get a shorter, pre-workout sports massage to help stimulate your muscles and enhance your workout. Pre-workout sports massages are administered no longer than 45 minutes before your workout.
Many people can’t afford to see a professional massage therapist as often as they need to in order to maximize the fitness benefits of massage. Luckily, you can still get many of the benefits of massage by massaging yourself. Here’s how you can massage yourself.
First, loosen your muscles in a hot bath for 20 minutes. If you’re feeling sore, Epsom salts can help relieve the pain. Concentrate your efforts on the sore muscles, or on the muscles you’ve exercised most recently, such as your arms and legs.
Massage with your fingers in small circles. Work on knots gently until they disappear. Breathe slowly and deeply during the massage, and drink plenty of water afterward to help your body flush out toxins.