There’s a new fitness trend in town, and it’s not only healthy, it’s fun. A quick internet search on popular fitness fads will bring you face to face with the foam roller—a simple device designed to help release the tension in the muscles and fascia. While this simple tool eases tension effectively, it also plays a big role in improving blood circulation.
As the name suggests, this is a cylindrical roller made of elastic foam. It comes in various lengths, but the diameter is usually six inches. When you rest a part of your body on the cylinder, it pushes against the body and provides resistance. When the body pushes down on the flexible foam, the foam pushes into the muscle and connecting tissues. The pressure goes deep into the subcutaneous areas of the body, loosening muscles and the surrounding tissues. (American doctor finally endorses the European vein secret that can support vein health in men and women.)
Thanks to the gentle kneading pressure, the blood vessels—arteries, veins, capillaries—in the affected area get activated. The applied pressure works to momentarily boost blood flow and, as a result, oxygen delivery. And when the pressure stops, the blood resumes its normal flow.
Of course, manual pressure is just the primary circulation booster. There are other secondary effects of the foam roller massage associated with improved circulation, such as creating more action in lactic acid deposits (again, promoting blood flow) and temporarily stimulating lymph elements to drive certain toxins through the body. (Your tired and aching legs are a warning. Do not ignore it!)
Roll out tension. Roll in circulation.
Here are some common foam roller techniques that can help improve circulation in various parts of the body:
Thoracic roll. In many cases, rolling on the lower back has been shown to relieve back pain. But this kind of roll should be done with proper guidance, as in some cases, a thoracic roll can also aggravate a lower back condition.
Hamstring stretch and roll. Sitting on the foam roller, extend your legs to stretch the hamstrings and then roll on the roller.
IT band roll. The iliotibial (IT) band is a thick piece of connective tissue that runs parallel to the thigh bone from the hip to the knee. It attaches along the gluteus maximus and connects on the lateral side of the shinbone. One of its major functions is to stabilize the knee while running. Some IT band exercises are done with the legs to the side, as using the roller loosens up this critical lower body muscle group.
As with any other kind of exercise, there are certain things that need to be taken into account. The important thing is not to overdo it. Spend 30 seconds’ max on a trigger point and 60–90 seconds rolling out the area. Also, don’t roll too quickly. Take your time, allow your muscles to let go, and relax, allowing an increase in circulation, range of motion, and flexibility.
Don’t roll over knees, elbows, ankles, hips, and shins. Foam rolling is designed for soft tissues, not joints. And, finally, don’t roll over pain. For example, instead of painfully rolling over your IT band, try rolling on the muscle around it.
One final note: If you experience any difficulties, talk to a doctor or a fitness expert. They might suggest a small change that could make your rolling more comfortable and beneficial. Happy rolling!
Related: 7 steps to better blood circulation