Foam roller exercises also known as self-myofascial release, is a form of massage that was once used only by professional athletes, strength coaches, elite personal trainers, and therapists.
But today it has become mainstream.
You can now find foam rollers everywhere, from local gyms to physical therapy offices used by health conscious people of all fitness levels trying to reap all the "benefits of foam rolling".
This simple fitness equipment is most known for muscle massage and knotting out tight spots in various parts of your body such as calves, shoulders and even your lats.
For some advanced users, benefits such as faster muscle recovery and loosening up tight and sore muscle before exercise for performance enhancement are also the crucial ones.
For all these muscle related benefits, foam rolling often gets mistakenly believed that it's only useful to fitness elites, but that’s a shame.
Foam rolling offers far more benefits than most people think, and there are numerous health benefits even non-exercisers can appreciate.
Because these benefits are so little known but enormous in rewards, once you learn them, I bet you won't stop rolling.
Before we introduce you to the 5 hidden benefits of foam rolling, there are also a few hidden pitfalls of foam Rolling you really should know before rolling out all your muscles.
We summarized 5 most commonly made foam rolling mistakes and how to avoid them in our article 5 Most Common Foam Roller Mistakes You Need to Avoid, so be sure to read it before your first session.
Also, what would good a foam roller be if you don’t know how to use it, right?
To get the most out of your foam rolling every single time, we covered 7 most popular foam rolling exercises and their detailed instructions on our post, 7 Best Foam Roller Exercises for Self-Myofascial Release to Ease Muscle Aches.
This will be a good read after discovering these hidden, yet enormous benefits of foam roll and decide to implement foam rolling into your workout routine or as a daily health ritual.
According to many health experts, the purpose of a foam roll is self-myofascial massage, but how good is it? Some experts say, really good. In fact, it’s as good as deep sports tissue massage.
So if something is as good as that, why would you expect its benefits to be just that?
That’s right. You wouldn’t.
There are many other side benefits that arise of getting deep tissue massage, and for some, those benefits may even surpass its main benefit.
So without a further adieu, here are 6 hidden benefits of foam rolling that are too good to pass up.
- Reduce stress
- Increase circulation
- Improve blood pressure
- Improve flexibility
- Relieve chronic muscle tension
- Reduce inflammation that causes pain
1. Stress reduction
Stress is often overlooked and get overshadowed by all the things that are going on in life. It certainly doesn't get enough attention, if any at all.
"It’s sort of a double whammy because the type of fat that is associated with stress is more likely to be stored in our problematic area the lower belly, from a health standpoint," explains Dr. Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise, one of the leading organizations for certified personal trainers and group fitness instructors.
He adds, "Stress signals the storage of visceral fat, which gets stored around the midsection deep within the abdominal region and around organs and has been associated with an increased risk for things like insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease."
It's also reported by Harvard Health Publication report every 2 inches of additional waist size, your risk of cardiovascular disease goes up by 10%.
High levels of constant stress especially take a large toll on our health, and if you have a fitness goal like losing weight and getting in shape, it could certainly hinder your progress.
Plus, for the simple fact that stress makes us feel anxious, frustrated and irritable, it only makes sense that we would want to limit its effects.
Luckily, exercise, especially foam roller exercise is one of the best ways to reduce and offset the negative effects of stress.
One university study from South Korea found that myofascial release can lower cortisol, a stress hormone that leads to fat storage.
One of the best foam roller exercises that helps combat stress and aids with relaxation is the Longitudinal Foam Roller Stretch.
This foam roller exercise is so great for your body and mind that you'd definitely want to make it a daily habit. Aside from helping you relax, it helps normalize the thoracic spine by functioning as a mobilization technique.
It'd also help to stretch all the tight muscles in the upper front of your chest and shoulders.
How to do the longitudinal foam roll stretch:
- Start by simply lying on your roller along the spine in this longitudinal position. Relax the arms out to the side, with the palms facing up. This opens up the chest and further enhance the postural changing effect on the upper spine.
- Take a deep breath for 3 to 5 seconds and reset your natural posture to take the pressure off your bones and joints.
This foam roller exercise should help your body feel relax and calm.
2. Better circulation
Foam roller exercises are great for improving circulations throughout the body.
When you perform foam rolling exercises, you are pushing the fluids of the tissues toward the heart to drain them (in order to stimulate refreshed circulation), and pressure-release tight tissue by micro-tearing.
In order to prevent excessive adhesion and dysfunctional thickening of connective tissues, it's a necessary process.
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 (the ability to think clearly!) and a weak immune system.
One study shows that myofascial release can help improve circulation by breaking up the tight areas where blood flow may become restricted.
If you’re looking for foam roller exercise ideas and how to foam-roll a specific body part, check out our post on Best Foam Roller Exercises for Self Myofascial Release to Ease Muscle Aches.
This is a great beginner’s guide to foam rolling; it shows exactly how to foam roll sore areas and how long to do it.
3. Reduce exercise-related soreness
Any sort of new exercise causes damage in your muscle tissues (causing little tears in your muscles)— which results in pain and stiffness.
And, it doesn’t matter if you're an experienced athlete or a weekend warrior, chances are, you’ve probably experienced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Simply put, DOMS is the pain and stiffness in your muscles that can typically set in anywhere from 24–72 hours after an intense workout.
But that’s ok.
The damage in your muscle(s) is a result of the muscle tissues breaking down, which causes a need for repair to take place. As a result, you’ll get stronger and more conditioned in your activity or sports. Damage in your muscle tissues may sound scary, but it's not a bad thing for the body other than you feel stiff and sore.
One study finds foam rolling can minimizing the effects of DOMS and aid a faster recovery.
A faster muscle recovery could mean you can be ready for your next workout or run faster and experience minimum interruptions in your daily life caused by an aching body.
4. Preventing sport-related Injuries
Whether you like to be out for a run or enjoy some rock climbing before your Saturday brunch,
Limiting muscle soreness and getting rid of tightness by increasing blood flow (circulation) and enhancing flexibility sure are great benefits of foam rolling, but if you are anything like me and enjoy being out for a run or getting a couple of hours of rock climbing before brunch on a weekend, then injury prevention is just as important.
In fact, nothing beats preventing sport-related injury.
Because when you get hurt, you put off your enjoyment and your active life.
When you have the luxury of good health, you may not realize it, but having the health and physical fitness to enjoy it without risking injury is something to not to take it for granted.
And one thing so certain about an injury is, it's easier to avoid it than treat it.
Foam rolling like other traditional stretching is a great tool for soothing sore muscles, lengthening and elongating muscles.
The best part is foam rolling goes beyond that.
Instead of simply performing stretching exercises to lengthen the muscles, a foam roller massages muscles more intensely, much like a sport massage from a massage therapist, without the big cost.
According to Bryan Hill, a physical therapist, when you foam roll properly, a foam roller can help exercisers prevent sport related injuries.
He further explains "foam rolling shouldn’t be a replacement for proper stretching, warming up and cooling down, but it can be used as a tool to limit soreness and tightness through increased blood flow and improved tissue quality."
Often times 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.
The iliotibial band (IT band) is a thick band of connective tissue located outside of the thigh. It starts at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shinbone (tibia) just below the knee joint.
The IT band actually works with several muscles in the thigh to stabilize the outside of the knee joint. It’s a very tender area for many people, especially runners.
It's a major source for knee problems and tends to be particularly susceptible to injury, especially in runners.
You can learn more in detail on How to Foam Roll and Treat Your Iliotibial Band Syndrome.
One caveat: If not foam roll properly, you can do more harm than good.—See our post on "5 Most Common Foam Roller Mistakes You Need to Avoid".
Also, be advised that foam rolling directly on an inflamed area can actually increase inflammation, thereby giving you the exact opposite effect you are trying to achieve.
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 any sort of activity.
Newer research, however, is showing that when you include foam roller exercises before an activity can lead to an increase in flexibility, strength, and better performance.
Here’s a list of the most common body areas you want to foam roll before your stretch and workout.
There you have it! 5 hidden benefits of foam rolling.
As you can see, a foam roller is one of the most inexpensive ways you can take care of your health and reward your aching body.
I know I'm probably missing a bunch of other great foam rolling benefits.
So, if you have been using a foam roller and like to share your experience, please leave a comment below. We love to hear it!