Six Benefits of a Post-Workout Massage

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When it comes to exercise, it’s well established that you’ve got to use it or lose it. If you don’t work those muscles, they’ll inevitably get smaller and weaker. And so we train for strength with fitness products, we do cardio, we stretch — all with the goal of maintaining health and keeping our bodies firm, strong, and flexible. Unfortunately, though, there are negative side effects of working out. Strenuous activity can result in temporary muscle damage—the breakdown before the build-up—leaving us stiff and sore. And that’s where post-workout massage comes in.

Massage has long been touted as a great way to prevent sore muscles after intense exercise, or at least to lessen the discomfort. But does it work? According to a systematic review of eleven studies, the science says yes: “muscle soreness decreased significantly when participants received massage intervention compared with no intervention.”

Massage is so valuable, in fact, that physical therapists routinely recommend it along with the use of physical therapy products to promote healing in their patients.

What else is post-workout massage good for?

In addition to helping with muscle soreness, claims for the benefits of massage after exercise include faster recovery, release of tension, elimination of toxins, and general pain relief. There are other possible benefits as well:

  • Increased Strength — We know that working out makes us stronger. Strength training fatigues our muscles, leading them to grow bigger and stronger than they were before. But in the period following a workout, while our muscles are still recovering, they can’t perform up to their normal standard. One study, though, found significant improvement in strength during this recovery time when muscles receive a post-workout massage of at least ten minutes.
  • Faster Recovery — A massage after a workout helps with circulation and oxygen delivery to the muscles. This promotes healing and is an effective method of reducing recovery time from sports injuries and muscle fatigue following a strenuous workout.
  • Increased Proprioception — The same study that pointed to the increased strength benefit of a post-workout massage also found improvements in proprioception. Proprioception is our awareness of the position and movement of our own body. This is important for coordination, timing, joint stability, and injury prevention — all of which are helped by a good massage.
  • Improved Flexibility — Muscles become tight and constricted after a workout. A massage can release this tension, allowing the muscles to lengthen again and regain flexibility.
  • Decreased Soreness — We’ve mentioned this already, but prevention or easing of soreness is a major reason people seek out a massage. And the perfect time to get that massage is immediately following strenuous exercise. A post-workout massage has been shown to be more effective at reducing soreness than icing, additional low-intensity exercise, and even stretching.
  • Massage Feels Great — And finally, here’s one that you don’t need any scientific studies to confirm: a massage feels great. There’s no better way to relax your body and calm your mind after an intense exercise session.

Other benefits of massage

Even if you’re not working out, massage has been proven to be beneficial. It’s great for chronic pain and back pain and arthritis pain, it can help in the control of diabetes, it reduces depression, anxiety, and fatigue, it relieves headaches, it can help lower blood pressure. It has even been shown to improve ADHD, and it’s certainly great for insomnia.

There are really no drawbacks, other than the cost and inconvenience of arranging for a professional massage therapist every time you want a massage. But while a pro can’t be beat, you can still get many of the benefits from self-massage or pairing up with a partner.