In the last couple of newsletters we have highlighted how foam rolling increases flexibility without decreasing strength and power output. It turns out, the benefits of self-massage impact more than just muscle and soft tissue. Recent research has found that self-massage using a foam roller actually reduces arterial stiffness as well. (1)
Why is this important?
Normal healthy arteries are capable of dilating to increase blood flow or contracting to decrease blood flow. As we age, arteries tend to become stiffer and more rigid. Increased arterial stiffness is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Utilizing ways to slow or reverse arterial stiffness should therefore have a positive impact on overall health.
Previous studies have found that aerobic exercise has a significant positive impact on arterial stiffness. (2) In a more recent study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers investigated the effects of foam rolling on arterial stiffness and vascular endothelial function. The participants of this study included ten healthy individuals who had not exercised for at least one year. Participants were randomly assigned to a control or self-massage group. The self-massage group performed foam rolling on the muscles of the lower extremities and back. Each area was massaged back and forth for 20 repetitions as the user controlled how much pressure to apply. The individuals in the control group simply rested on their backs. Arterial stiffness, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma nitric oxide (NO) concentration were measured before and 30 minutes after foam rolling. Arterial stiffness significantly decreased and NO levels significantly increased in the foam roll group. There was no change in the control group. Nitric oxide controls blood flow by acting as a vasodilator or blood vessel relaxant. So as NO levels increase, arterial stiffness decreases.
The study only looked at the immediate short term effects of foam rolling on arterial stiffness. It would be great to see if there is a long term impact with consistent foam rolling as well.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 650-322-2809.
(1.) Okamoto T., Masuhara M., Ikuta K. (2013). “Acute effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roller on arterial function.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 28:1:69-73.
(2.) Ashor, Ammar W. et al. “Effects of Exercise Modalities on Arterial Stiffness and Wave Reflection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Ed. Yan Li. PLoS ONE 9.10 (2014): e110034. PMC. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.