4 Benefits of Foam Rolling

woman using foam roller with help of a trainer
While foam rollers might not look like anything special, they can truly help keep your body feeling its best.

by Catherine Santino

If you've recently walked into the gym only to find your fellow gym-goers flopping around on foam rollers, wincing with each slow roll, you may be wondering what you've just signed up for. The truth is, although it might be a bit funny-looking, there are actually many benefits of foam rolling, such as soothing muscles and relieving soreness.

The best part? This tool is super easy to incorporate into your routine.

According to Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products (OPTP), foam rollers are "exercise devices used for self-massage and fitness." They are typically long and cylindrical but come in different shapes, sizes and textures. To use a foam roller effectively, slowly roll your muscles over it and leverage your body weight to apply pressure to the affected areas. For a visual tutorial on how to use a foam roller, check out the instructional videos on the OPTP website.

While foam rollers might not look like anything special, they can help keep your body feeling its best. Here are four benefits of foam rolling:

1. Soothes Sore Muscles

You may think that only a massage therapist can soothe your muscles, but you'd be surprised. With just a foam roller and your own body weight, you can increase blood flow to uncomfortable areas and relieve muscle tension quickly and effectively.

"Compare the action to putting air in your tires — you're fluffing the muscle up so it's not as tight and dense," Lauren Roxburgh, a trainer and structural integrative specialist, explains to Shapemagazine.

2. Reduces Fatigue

Foam rolling can also help prevent muscle fatigue, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. After a workout, the tissue around your muscles (known as fascia) becomes tender.

When healthy, this tissue "should be stretchy and flexible like Saran wrap" according to Roxburgh. Rolling out these tissues can release the knots, toxins and tensions that build up while exercising. This way, your muscle can recover more quickly and you can get back in the gym faster.

3. Improves Range of Motion

Stretching is a key element in fitness because if your muscles are tight, you might not be exercising as effectively as you could. Foam rollers can help improve your range of motion, so you're able to get the most out of your workout.

Josh Feldman, a certified personal trainer in New York City, tells Women's Health magazine, "The problem is that if you don't foam roll first, your muscles are likely too tight when you start your workout, which means you can't get deep enough into whatever you're doing, and you don't get the best results."

4. Enhances Exercises

If you perform different exercises with the foam roller, you'll likely experience fewer muscle aches and less fatigue following your workout. But increased flexibility and reduced muscle tightness can also go a long way during your routine. By keeping your muscles loose and tension-free, foam rolling can help you make the most of your workout. Remember, it's important to warm up your muscles before using your foam roller — so go for a quick walk or gentle jog on the treadmill beforehand to avoid injury.

By simply adding a foam roller into your routine, your workouts are likely to get easier, more effective and more enjoyable over time. Not to mention, your muscles will thank you! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.