If one of your New Year’s resolutions included losing a few pounds, you need to know about the benefits of regular massage. Massage reduces stress levels and can help your muscles release toxins after a workout.
As odd as it may seem, relaxation is key to losing weight. Studies indicate that long-term stress, not over-eating, may be at the root of many people’s inability to shed unwanted pounds.
The adrenal glands produce two hormones that come to our aid and trigger the “fight or flight” response. One of these is adrenaline, and the other is cortisol.
Cortisol’s job is to help your body produce more glucose from protein so that you have energy to confront or evade a threat. When cortisol is released as a response to run-of-the-mill, everyday stressors instead of a real “fight or flight” dangers, the excess glucose is converted to fat.
Typically, this cortisol fat is abdominal fat, which is one of the most dangerous kinds of fat to our health because it is related to greater danger of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and hypertension&emdash; all diseases that have a connection to stress.
Excess cortisol in the blood can also lead to depression, which in turn can lead to unhealthy emotional eating, especially of foods that ramp up production of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin. Chocolate and most starchy carbs fall into this category.
Research in several studies indicates that even a 15 minute chair massage can reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol levels did not drop in control groups. Furthermore, reduction of cortisol acts to boost the immune system generally, decrease pain, and induce more restful sleep. Clearly, massage can be seen as preventative health care and not just as an indulgence.
Another way massage can help with weight-loss is by making workouts easier. Massage therapists can employ PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches or other techniques to improve your range of motion. Likewise, massage works to increase circulation and lymphatic flow so that you can better release the waste products that build up during a workout. Improved circulation and lymphatic flow helps to heal the microscopic tears in the muscle fibers that come from unaccustomed exertion by taking oxygen and white blood cells to the site of injury. In fact, massage is an integral part of most professional athletes’ training regimen.
Releasing trigger points will also improve your range of motion and make workouts easier and their aftermath less painful. Trigger points are taut bands of muscle that inhibit movement and refer pain to other sites in the body. When the rest of the muscle relaxes, they stay contracted, and the result is pain.
Other massage techniques that helps you lose weight are lymphatic drainage and massage cupping, a technique that applies “reverse pressure” to the body, using glass or plastic suction cups that are massaged along problem areas in the direction of natural lymphatic flow. Both methods help the body release dead cells (including fat cells) and may stimulate sluggish metabolism.
Although it sounds contradictory to add a relaxation component to a weight-loss plan, massage has proven itself to help people reduce the stress that can cause weight gain and to improve athletic flexibility, performance and recovery time.