10 Reasons You Need A Foam Roller

Not just for athletes, foam rolling gives everyone benefits of self-myofascial release, from less pain to better sleep.

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woman using a foam roller on her lower back
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You need a foam roller. Once a best-kept secret of athletes and therapists, foam rollers have been making their way into gyms to fitness studios — but are they really worth your time and the pain? If you’ve never foam rolled, your first time will be eye-opening. The sensation is intense. “Whether you are a runner, sit at a desk all day or are an elite athlete you can benefit from using a foam roller,” admits chiropractor Liza Egbogah, a myofascial release expert and clinic director of the[fix]. The amazing thing is that some of the benefits of foam rolleing can be seen in as little as a few seconds of of self-myofascial release. We chatted with Egbogah to find out exactly why you need to own a foam roller.

Gaiam Restore Lap-KT-58274F 36″ Total Body Foam Roller, $49.99, at amazon.ca.

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woman using foam roller on her upper back
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Foam rolling releases muscle tension

One of the best reasons to foam roll is that it makes your muscles feel great after you do it. Fascia is the connective tissue that connects everything in your body, and when you use a foam roller, you release tension and smooth out the tight fascia and muscles, explains Egbogah. She calls what you feel when you use a foam roller  “good pain,” since you can feel the tension being released.

Best Health Tip: Don’t foam roll muscles like your chest and neck muscles, as they can be difficult and dangerous to roll. You might get injured. Instead, talk to your health care provider about your pain.

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Woman stretching, reaching her feet
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Foam rolling makes you more flexible

Stretching isn’t the only way to increase flexibility. Research suggests that foam rolling is comparable to stretching — maybe even better because you’re when you use a foam roller you’re moving and are not in a static state, like with stretching. Egbogah cites a study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that suggests foam rolling for even a minute can improve your range of motion. She says it takes about four weeks of consistently rolling three times a week to see a difference.

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fit woman laughing on the beach
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Foam rolling reduces stress

It’s not just your muscles that will thank you, says Egbogah. Some studies have shown foam rolling can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. In the book, Taller, Slimmer, Younger: 21 Days to a Foam Roller Physique, author Lauren Roxburgh writes that foam rolling helps to calm the nervous system because it targets acupressure points connected to the adrenals. Makes sense when you think about it.

MHSH Yoga Foam Roller Best Massage Muscles & Deep TissueTrigger Massage Therapy Tool, $38.27, at amazon.ca.

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woman using a foam roller against a wall
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Foam rolling improves your posture

This will make you sit up straight. “You can have postural imbalances caused by tight muscles,” says Egbogah. “By releasing the fascia with foam rolling, you can help to correct these postural imbalances.” Say, for example, your stomach protrudes because of a forward tilt in your pelvis, by rolling out your quads you can help to correct your posture.

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woman stretching after a good night's rest
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Foam rolling will help you sleep better

Another positive benefit of foam rolling is how it promotes the production of “the happy hormone” serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. Your body uses serotonin to help communicate to your brain to enter into a deep sleep, as well as to produce melatonin, aka “the sleep hormone.” “Melatonin is a hormone which tells the brain to ‘slow down’ and to prepare to sleep,” explains Egbogah. “With regular foam rolling you can expect improved sleep which will go a long way in reducing your overall stress levels.”

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Woman enjoying a great run
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Foam rolling reduces your risk for injuries

Whether it’s from repetitive movements, bad posture or poor recovery, inflamed and tight muscles and surrounding tissue can lead to injuries, from muscle strain to mobility issues. Muscle tears specifically can be caused by tightness in the muscle and fascia. By foam rolling out the tightness you can reduce the risk of injury occurring, says Egbogah.

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woman looking proud after a run
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Foam rolling will make you more fit

“Research has shown the foam rolling before your workout can increase range of motion without the decrease in muscle power that can result from pre-workout static stretching,” says Egbogah. This improved range of motion can help you become stronger. For example, if you’re working on a PB for your next running event, foam rolling could help make a difference with your time.

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Woman wearing shorts stretching
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Foam rolling improves cellulite and circulation

You can at least improve your circulation and, temporarily, reduce the look of cellulite. “Foam rolling boosts the lymphatic system, stimulates blood circulation and helps to temporarily minimize the appearance of cellulite,” says Egbogah. Underlying fat pushes through weakened or brittle tissue, so by rolling the tissue you can briefly reduce dimpling in the skin.

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woman thinking to herself after a fitness class
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Foam rolling helps with pain

Similar to the way myofascial release helps to prevent injuries, you can foam roll away muscle pain that is caused by the tight and inflamed fascia and tissue. Depending on the type of pain and its location, you may want to enlist the help of a fitness expert, like a physiotherapist or trainer, to properly target muscles and learn the correct techniques. Egbogah admits that most people at the gym are foam rolling incorrectly. While it’s OK to foam roll on your own to the point of slight discomfort, self-myofascial release with pain can cause injuries.

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woman drinking water after a hard workout
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Foam rolling speeds up injury recovery

Injuries can, and do, happen. If you have damaged muscle tissue, foam rolling can be a way to help speed up your recovery time. “Foam rolling helps to promote healing and increase flexibility,” says Egbogah. “This will help to lessen your chance of injury and speed up recovery time from workouts.”

Nike Textured Foam Roller, $76.73, at amazon.ca.

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