The season for being physically active has arrived. After being stuck in an office or bogged down with household chores all week, many people are anxious to enjoy some fresh air and make up for five days of being mostly sedentary. But whether their activity of choice is running, hiking, team sports, or even strenuous yard work, these so-called “weekend warriors” may find that their bodies are not as ready to spring into action as their minds are. Those who do not exercise frequently are more susceptible to pain and injury than professional athletes or diehard exercise junkies. Given their hectic work weeks, the last thing that weekend warriors need is to find themselves feeling achy and exhausted rather than rejuvenated on Monday morning. Fortunately, adding regular massage therapy to the schedule can ward off some of the unintended consequences of an activity-packed weekend.
One condition that may afflict weekend warriors is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS refers to muscle pain and swelling that appear several hours after exercise and is more likely to occur if the exercise is unfamiliar to the person. Studies have found that by improving blood and lymphatic circulation and thereby delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, massage may reduce the effects of DOMS by up to 30 percent. Massage also triggers the release of endorphins, which are known to decrease pain levels.
Massage can also help weekend warriors prepare to tackle an ambitious activity by relaxing and stretching tightened muscles. The effect of this is to increase flexibility and range of motion, improving performance in athletic endeavors and helping to prevent injury.
Weekend warriors may suffer from high stress levels due to their busy lifestyles. After a hectic work week, they try to pack exercise, household chores, and other activities into the two fleeting days of the weekend. While staying active is undeniably important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, sometimes a warrior would benefit most by simply relaxing and unwinding. The restorative power of massage can help. Studies confirm that massage lowers blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and massage recipients report improvements in their emotional states and stress levels.
If you are a “weekend warrior” trying to squeeze the most fun out of your free time this summer, incorporating regular massage into your schedule will help you maximize the benefits and reduce the chance of painful consequences stemming from your exercise routine.