Foam rollers are popular amongst physical therapists and athletes to maximize muscle recovery. True to the name, it’s simply a roll of foam which is used for a self-myofascial release technique, that is much more affordable and convenient than deep tissue massages. Foam rolling has gained popularity in recent years as more research reveals the incredible benefits it provides for the body. Here are just seven science-backed benefits to take note of:
- It loosens up muscles.
Ever gone from lounging on the couch to hitting the pavement for a jog without taking the time to properly loosen up? You’ve likely felt extremely stiff. Foam rolling is a great way to loosen up your muscles before a workout so you can get the most out of your exercise. One study conducted by the National Strength & Conditioning Association concluded that athletes who took advantage of foam rolling before exercising felt much less fatigued than those who chose not to foam roll.
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- It reduces stress.
High levels of stress can take a toll on your health, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and get in shape. Constant stress is linked to increased hormones such as cortisol that increase appetite, promote weight gain and fat storage, and disrupt your sleep. One university study from South Korea found that foam rolling can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- It can prevent injury.
Injury prevention isn’t just about being careful, but about being proactive. A consistent routine of stretching and foam rolling can help keep pesky and painful injuries linked with tightness and overuse, like the iliotibial band, at bay by loosening up the muscles. Studies have concluded that loosening up the muscles increases the compliance of the muscle-tendon unit, therefore preventing the body from demanding energy absorption and release that can exceed the capacity of the muscle-tendon unit that leads to injury.
- It limits soreness.
By increasing flexibility and blood flow, foam rolling can inhibit soreness. A 2015 study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association concluded that foam rolling was significantly effective in lessening muscle fatigue and soreness.
- It increases flexibility.
Loosening up your muscles through foam rolling can boost their elasticity. The more flexible the muscles, the more power they can produce. In fact, a 2014 study found that foam rolling even increased an athlete’s range of motion.
- It boosts blood circulation.
Proper blood circulation is important on a multitude of levels. Massages work to improve circulation through the arteries, veins and capillaries in your body, which allows them to receive more oxygen to feel refreshed. One study conducted by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association found that arterial stiffness was decreased while vascular endothelial function was increased after using a foam roller.
- It can increase your range of motion.
A 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the range of motion in every major joint in the body decreases with age. This can cause everyday tasks to feel painful. Decreased range of motion can also lead to injury. Foam rolling has been found to increase range of motion, and compared to static stretching before a workout, can increase muscle force according to a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.