I’d be willing to bet that when it comes to stretching, you fall into one of two camps: Either you couldn’t go a day without stretching, or you don’t do it at all. I know many people who make the effort to work out often but refuse to put aside a few minutes afterward to stretch out those tired muscles. Conversely, nearly everyone I know who has taken the time to engage in deep stretching has become addicted to the benefits it offers.
Whether you currently stretch or not, there is one particular piece of equipment that you need to incorporate into your routine when you do decide to stretch it out: a foam roller. As its name suggests, a foam roller is literally a foam coated cylinder that can be used in a number of ways to stretch and massage deep into your tissues.
We have a foam roller here at the Collective Evolution offices, and it’s not unusual to see us step away from our computers throughout the day to roll out our back, hips, and legs, among other body parts. The particular one that we have is the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller (13-inch), but that is just one of many affordable foam roller options available online.
Part of what motivates so many of us to use it regularly here at the office is certainly how good it feels to do so, but foam rollers also offer a number of key benefits. Here are 3 of the most well-recognized benefits of stretching with a foam roller:
1. Helps Prevent Injury
While stretching is often used as a form of treatment for many physical injuries, stretching with a foam roller can be a very effective means of avoiding injury in the first place. That’s because it allows for self-myofascial release.
Myofascial release is a form of massage that loosens up sore muscles and tight joints when done before exercise and aids muscle recovery when done after exercise (source). When used correctly, a foam roller can safely apply pressure to different areas (without needing to pay for an expensive massage session).
2. Improves Flexibility
A foam roller helps to improve our overall flexibility by reducing muscle tension in whatever areas we choose to roll out. It does this by massaging the underlying fascia, which is the key to keeping your muscles moving with ease.
I particularly love to stretch out my legs on a foam roller prior to playing ultimate frisbee, since I know just how taxing and unpredictable the sport can be on my legs. And I’ve noticed that when I don’t take the time to stretch before a game, I am not nearly as flexible.
3. Improves Circulation
Blood flow is beyond critical to our overall health. Blood carries oxygen throughout the body, and when it’s not flowing properly, our cognitive abilities are impaired and our immune systems weakened (source).
By really working deep into our fascia, foam rollers allow us to break up some of the tighter areas in our body where blood already is or may soon become restricted.
Note: As with all forms of physical exercise, use of a foam roller should always be done with caution and care. If you have any hesitations about incorporating one into your routine, please consult with a trusted body care professional. I also suggest reading 5 Foam Rolling Mistakes to Avoid to minimize your chances of using it incorrectly.
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