Many massage therapists and some health researchers believe a deep tissue massage before or after a workout can promote blood flow, boost your immune system and relieve tension in ways that make every minute of a workout more effective. If you've already realized the benefits of massage as a stress reducer, integrating a session into your workout schedule could further enhance your bodywork benefits. Although the medical and scientific research about the relationship between massage and exercise is still ongoing, most of it reveals what therapists already know: Massage can help you either before or after a workout session.
If you are prone to injury or plan to try a new type of exercise that could challenge latent muscles, a massage before working out could be give you a better exercise experience. Professional athletes, for example, commonly go in for sports massages before events to have their weak areas warmed and stretched. With muscles stimulated before use, you'll not only be a better biker, runner or yogi, but also reduce the chances of a pull or strain that could keep you on the couch the next day. If you do opt for a pre-workout massage, tell your therapist about the plan. He or she might adjust the massage accordingly by focusing on certain muscle groups most likely to be exerted, such as the hamstrings or calves.
One of the most significant pieces of research on massage's effect on exercise is related to the recovery process. Since muscles can be taxed and torn in a workout, a massage afterward could reduce inflammation and prevent the sore, achy feeling caused by a buildup of lactic acid. The improved blood flow to your entire body might also help you relax and sleep better, giving your cells extra opportunity to rejuvenate and fight off colds and disease. Pairing the post-workout massage with music, soothing tones and aromatherapy could extend the life of those exercise endorphins, creating an even stronger sense of well-being and balance than you'd get from exercise alone.
As science continues to explore the benefits of massage on both the brain and body, you can prove to yourself that it works by scheduling a session before or after your workout. Look for a practitioner of Swedish massage, sports massage or a general bodywork therapist. Make sure to explain your workout and health goals, then lie back, relax and let the positive vibes begin.