Massage Amplifies Benefits of Exercise


If you’ve ever received a high quality professional massage after a long, grueling exercise session, you know how relaxing and soothing it can be. A newly published study is indicating that the health benefits of regularly receiving a sports massage aren’t just restricted to relaxation.

According to the Ontario based study, the results indicated that individuals who received a massage after 70 minutes of exercise experienced significant increases in energy production within the cells of their muscles.

Inflammation in the same cells was reduced as well. The results of the study reveals the benefits of receiving a sports massage that should tempt many exercisers and strength trainers to receive massages more frequently.

Massage Boosts Mitochondria Production at Cellular Level

The study, which was admittedly small, was conducted by researchers at Hamilton, Ontario’s McMaster University. During the study, researchers asked 11 healthy males to exercise to exhaustion over the course of 70 minutes. Following a brief cool-down period, each exerciser was given a massage in a single leg for 10 minutes.

Next, the researchers analyzed samples of muscle tissue extracted from the men’s legs. The original analysis occurred immediately after the workout, while a second analysis was performed 2.5 hours later. These samples were then compared to samples taken from the exercisers previously, after they’d performed a shorter workout.

The researchers noticed markedly lower levels of inflammation and higher levels of mitochondria production in the samples extracted from massaged muscle tissue. The researchers also discovered that the massaged tissue had just as much lactic acid as the tissue that hadn’t received a massage. This is remarkable because massage is generally believed to reduce levels of lactic acid in muscles, which builds up over the course of prolonged exercise.

The Powerhouse of the Cell

Lead researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky described mitochondria as the “powerhouse of the cell.” He said that the primary benefit of endurance exercise is to boost mitochondria levels, making massage an excellent addition to the fitness routine of any endurance exerciser.

Dr. Mark Hyman Rapaport, director of Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, called the findings of the study “profound” and a great contribution to a “growing body of thoughtful scientific work” indicating that massage has real exercise benefits, and that it’s now possible to learn more about how massage creates those benefits.

According to Rapaport, future research within this area should include thorough exploration into the the effects of post-workout massage over the long term, with particular attention being paid to its specific biological effects across the entire body.

Questions Remain

Despite the success of his study in the short term, Dr. Tarnopolsky is still skeptical as to whether serious athletes would be wise to incorporate healing massage into their long-term regimens.

Tarnopolsky’s main concern is that by suppressing inflammation initially, the overall healing process could actually slow down. Tarnopolsky’s reservations make sense in light of the fact that the exact relationship between inflammation and healing in the body is poorly understood by science. He believes that future research will answer these questions.

Benefits of Sports Massage: The Bottom Line

A recent study indicates that post-workout massage boosts mitochondria production and reduces cellular inflammation, at least in the short term. The study also showed that massage does not reduce lactic acid buildup. Future research will look to confirm that receiving a massage after exercise yields long-term benefits.

The full text of the study can be found in the current issue of the medical journal Science Translational Medicine.

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