Yes, massage has a lot in common with exercise. You’re probably thinking, “Yeah right, exercise is sweaty, exhausting, and you have to be ‘good at it’ for it to even begin to be enjoyable.” While some of that may be true, if you reframe your thinking a bit, you will see that the benefits of massage are actually a lot like the benefits of working out.
Increased blood and lymphatic circulation
When you engage in exercise, blood flows into the muscles, stimulating overall blood flow and circulation. The pressure applied to muscles during a massage activates blood flow into the muscle tissue. This helps to break down lactic acid, a byproduct of exercise or overuse of a specific muscle group. The “knots” that massage therapists work out to relieve pain and stiffness are made up of lactic acid. This is why some people experience that “hurts so good” soreness after a deep tissue or sports massage. When lactic acid is released from the muscles, lymphatic fluid is stimulated to flush out waste products from the muscles.
Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to push new fluid throughout the body. Exercise and massage both stimulate the lymphatic system and release backed-up lymphatic fluid in the body, encouraging detoxification.
One of the immediate benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins, known as “happy hormones.” Studies have shown that massage also stimulates the production of anti-stress hormones. Both exercise and massage lead to decreased instances of depression, anxiety, and stress over time. It’s easy to be happy when you are taking care of your greatest asset, your health.
Lowers blood pressure
There are many lifestyle factors that contribute to blood pressure. Both exercise and massage are wellness methods that can reduce blood pressure, and are even more effective when used together. Exercising makes the heart muscle stronger, which means it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. Less work means less force on the arteries, which lowers blood pressure. Studies have shown that consistent massage lowers overall blood pressure. The MayoClinic suggests that in some individuals, stress reduction is directly linked to lower blood pressure. Massage can also reduce swelling that contributes to high blood pressure.
Boost in metabolism
During relaxation, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is activated. The PNS controls the metabolic functions of the body. Western society thrives off of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the “fight or flight response.” When we give our bodies the time and space to relax and tap into the PNS, our cortisol levels decrease and the body can carry out digestive cellular functions, such as metabolizing energy.
Like working out, massage is most effective when sessions are consistent and frequent. Treating a massage like a special occasion is better than never having a massage at all, but if massage is a way for you to relieve stress, back and neck pain, headaches, and stiffness, achieving long-term pain and stress relief will be more difficult when massage appointments are made irregularly. Massage and exercise have many of the same benefits that become stronger when used together as apart of a healthy lifestyle.