We’ve written before about massage to help recovery – helping decrease muscle inflammation and soreness and help with quick recovery. Massage is widely deployed in warm-up and recovery techniques in sports, with studies published showing the ability for massage to decrease muscle soreness and increase flexibility.
But how about massage to help develop overall fitness? Thai massage has been used by soccer players in Thailand for years as part of maintaining their regular physical fitness. A recent study (see link here) investigated just this: the immediate effects of Thai massage on physical fitness in soccer players.
The aim of the study was to determine the effects of Thai massage on physical fitness of soccer players, and thirty-four regular soccer players took part in the study. The athletes were randomly assigned to receive either rest (i.e. as part of the control group) or three sessions of Thai massage over a period of ten days. Then the testers administers seven fitness tests consisting of sit and reach, hand grip strength, forty yards technical agility, fifty-meter sprint, sit-ups, push-ups, and VO2 max. The tests were measured before and after Thai massage (or in the case of the control group – after rest).
The authors found that all the physical fitness tests were improved after Thai massage, whereas in the control group only two tests were improved. They concluded therefore that Thai massage could provide a real improvement in physical performance of soccer players.
While not quantified, the authors also identified ancillary benefits among the Thai massage group. Those players receiving Thai massage reported sleeping well after their massages, and recovering quickly from fatigue. The day after a massage, those players also described feeling fresh, and went on to perform better than normal on agility and sprint tests. The authors sought to account for the positive changes in physical fitness scores. They found evidence to support that massage associated with myofascial trigger points (tissue providing support to muscle and bones) increased the flexibility in patients with back pain. That improved flexibility could explain improvements in results of tests measuring sit and reach, agility, and 50-meter sprints. Secondly, since Thai massage has been found to increase blood supply to muscle tissue, the authors considered that it may allow muscles to receive more oxygen from the blood, assisting with strength and endurance exercises.
Because Thai massage has been shown to reduce muscle tension and increase blood ﬂow, it’s likely that Thai massage could have similar positive fitness effects on individuals outside of sports and contribute to your ability to sustain more rigorous workout regimes. For those seeking marginal fitness gains, Thai massage could be a key factor in gaining a physical edge.
Naturally (in a shameless PR effort) we are offering free massages for the England team whenever they get back to London!