The benefits of massage when exercising

01 Aug 2018
exercise-blog

The benefits of massage when exercising

With Remedial Massage Therapist, Tess

Did you know that massage can help with exercise? It can be used to improve performance, speed recovery, improve conditioning and help maintain peak performance. Exercise is an incredibly important part of becoming and staying healthy, so how can we enhance those benefits?

Below are some of the benefits of getting a regular massage while exercising:

  1. Reduces muscle hypertonicity and decreases muscle stiffness – When a muscle is hypertonic it is stuck in contraction, which can be not only uncomfortable, but also exhausting as our body uses energy to keep it contracted. Massage can help stimulate the neural pathway that relaxes the muscle, as well as bringing blood flow and nutrients to an area lacking in those things.
  2. Improve soft tissue function and increase range of motion – When our muscles are in a relaxed state they have far more potential and are far less likely to be injured. During massage I often use stretching techniques to improve the range of motion in client’s muscles, which in turn helps to return proper function to joints. This allows their bodies to perform better during exercise and also to use the correct muscles and not compensate, potentially causing injury.
  3. Support the recovery of heart rate variability – Heart rate variability or HRV is the space between heart beats and is used to measure the level of stress in an athlete, determining if they’re in parasympathetic nervous system or sympathetic nervous system. When HRV is high, this can be taken as an indicator of a parasympathetic state and being well rested.  When HRV is low it suggests sympathetic dominance, high stress and a potentially over trained state. Massage helps to put our bodies back in to a parasympathetic state, using muscle relaxation, increased blood flow and feelings of wellbeing. This in turn can raise HRV, allowing the athlete to train harder with lower risk.
  4. Reduce breathing pattern disorders – When we exercise our muscles invariably get tight and unless you are making a concerted effort with stretching this is going to affect your performance. The muscles of your upper thoracic region, including your diaphragm are going to tighten up, inhibiting the deeper breathing necessary for strong cardio. Massage can help to loosen up your diaphragm, intercostal muscles (muscles between your ribs), trapezius, erector spinae and other muscles allowing the depth of breath needed for your workout.
  5. Improve overall fitness abilities – Recent studies done at the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing and McMaster University in Ontario, Canada shows that massage can stimulate the growth of new mitochondria in skeletal muscle. This is the same study that showed a reduction of production of cytokines. So massage not only reduces inflammation, it increases our cells ability to create energy, helping to improve overall fitness.
  6. A reduction of muscle tension – Massage reduces muscle tension in a number of ways. When we perform rigorous exercise we literally cause wear and tear in the muscle, which then causes scar tissue to form cross hatch over tears. The scar tissue is often in the opposite direction to our muscle fibers, causing tension and tightness and impeding regular movement. Massage helps to realign the muscle fibers in the correct direction. Massage also relaxes our fascia and releases myofascial tension. Fascia is connective tissue that holds our muscles shape, as well as holding it in its place in our body. When our fascia become tight, it can cause tension within the muscle structure.
  7. Promotes relaxation – Massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows the body to relax. It does this in different ways, the massage itself being part of the overall experience. One of the ways massage does this is by promoting blood flow to muscles and tissues that have had limited supply due to tension in your muscles. Some other ways are reduction of inflammation, reduction of muscle tension and an increased sense of wellbeing.
  8. Reduce swelling – As mentioned before vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in the muscle fibers, causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can be caused by an increased production of compounds called cytokines. Researchers have recently found that having a massage reduces the production of cytokines in the body, thereby reducing inflammation in the body.

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