Benefits of Foam Rolling
A foam roller is a simple piece of equipment that anyone can use for self-myofascial release. Self-myofascial release, or self-massage, is a great habit for athletes and weight lifters alike. This is because the health benefits increase fitness at a very affordable price.
What is Myofascial Release
First, lets define myofascial release, in case you are unfamiliar with the term. Myofascial release is the application of low-intensity forces to soft tissues over a long period of time. Essentially, the purpose is to allow contracted muscles to relax, which improves blood flow and nutrient flow to the area. The effect is that muscles operate with smoother motion because of reduced internal rubbing.
While there are many reasons to incorporate foam rolling into your fitness routine, let’s briefly look at 5.
Improved flexibility and increased joint range of motion
For years, stretching was the standard method to decrease muscle tightness and improve flexibility prior to either working out or performing a sport. Newer research, however, shows foam roller exercises before an activity can lead to an increase in flexibility.
Because blood carries oxygen throughout the body, good circulation becomes crucial to overall health. Among other reasons, a decrease in our circulation can lead to a whole host of problems like numbness in our limbs, impaired cognitive ability and a weak immune system. Myofascial release can help improve circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may become restricted.
Foam roller exercises can help reduce stress post-workout. One study found myofascial release can lower cortisol, your stress hormone that you want to seriously dial down after a strenuous workout.
Reduce exercise-related soreness
Whether you are an experienced athlete or a weekend warrior, you’ve probably experienced delayed onset muscle soreness. Simply put, DOMS is the pain and stiffness in your muscles that can typically set in anywhere from 24–48 hours after an intense workout.
However, research finds foam rolling can substantially reduce the chances of that soreness creeping in so that you don’t spend the day after your first cycling class stuck on the couch wondering why your legs hate you so much.
Treating an injury becomes much easier when you avoid it in the first place. Oftentimes a consistent routine of proper stretching techniques combined with foam roller exercises can prevent many injuries associated with tightness and overuse, such as iliotibial band syndrome and other common running injuries.
The iliotibial band runs from the top of the leg by your hip to just below your knee. It tends to be particularly susceptible to injury, especially in runners. One caveat: If not done properly, you can do more harm than good. Rolling on an already inflamed area can actually increase inflammation, thereby giving you the exact opposite effect you are trying to achieve.