Massage Therapy For Those Who Exercise

Millions of people around the world play sports and exercise, from the elite professional athlete to the novice just starting a walking program for general health and wellness benefits.  Exercise is recommended for everyone. Although other government groups in the past have recommended exercise and fitness, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the first official U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines in October 2008, as the official guidelines of the U.S. government. The Guidelines indicate that some activity is better than none, and then go on to make several specific recommendations: 

1. Moderate amounts of physical activity provide substantial health benefits for all adults. This dose is defined as 150 minutes/week of moderate intensity activity such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity/week such as jogging or vigorous sports.  Furthermore, this moderate dose can be obtained by mixing some days of moderate intensity and some days of vigorous intensity, with one minute of vigorous equaling two minutes of moderate intensity. For this combination, 150 minutes is the goal.

2. Additional health benefits can be obtained by doing more than the moderate dose. This higher target is described as 300 minutes of moderate intensity, 150 minutes of vigorous intensity, or combining moderate and vigorous intensity.

3. All adults should participate in 30 minutes of strength building exercise on two days of the week. These exercises should engage all major muscle groups.

4. Children and adolescents should participate in 60 minutes of physical activity each day.  Most of this should be moderate to vigorous intensity activity, and should include vigorous activity at least three days/week. It also is recommended that children and adolescents participate in muscle-strengthening three days/week and bone-strengthening activities at least three days/week.1 

Sports massage can be used to improve athletic performance, speed recovery, and can be utilized by all individuals who participate in any athletic and/or exercise program to help improve conditioning and maintain peak performance. Many professional and collegiate athletic programs employ or contract with massage therapists, and sports massage has been sought for many years by athletes of differing backgrounds for multiple reasons.2, 3, 4, 5 With the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines being very clear that activity is essential for people to be healthy, sports massage can be recommended to those individuals who participate in exercise programs as well as professional and collegiate athletes.

Research has shown that in relation to exercise and athletic participation massage can:

Reduce muscle tension4, 18, 19

Help athletes monitor muscle tone4, 19

Promote relaxation4, 18, 19

Reduce muscle hypertonicity4, 18, 19

Increase range of motion4, 14, 18, 19

Improve soft tissue function4, 18

Support recovery from the transient immunosuppression state6

Support the recovery of heart rate variability and diastolic blood pressure after high-intensity exercise.7

Decrease muscle stiffness and fatigue after exercise8, 18, 19

Improve exercise performance8, 9, 18, 19

Decrease delayed onset muscle soreness10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Be the most efficient intervention for maintaining maximal performance time in subsequent exercise tests when combined with active recovery from maximal exercise12

Reduce serum creatine kinase post exercise13

Reduce swelling17, 19

Reduce breathing pattern disorders18

Enhance athletic performance4, 18, 19

May help prevent injuries when massage is received regularly18, 19

Individuals who participate in exercise and athletic programs who seek enhanced performance, improved conditioning, faster recovery, injury prevention, and assistance in maintaining peak fitness can benefit from massage therapy given by professional massage therapists working within their scope of practice. 

Research & References

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