Why You Should Use a Foam Roller, Even If You’re Not a Gym Rat

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There’s no way around it — regular exercise is important for a healthy, balanced life. But working out can also lead to injury if you’re not careful.

One moment at the gym you’re feeling great, sprinting on the treadmill or lifting weights, and the next you’re hunched over with back or knee pain. This has happened to even the most seasoned athletes.

“You might be focused on outcomes when you exercise: stronger muscles, weight loss, or other aspects of better health and wellness,” said Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of the Harvard Health Letter. “But if you don’t focus on the exercise, and what it takes to do it safely, you may set yourself up for workout injuries.”

Some of the most common exercise-related — or even just everyday life — injuries include knee, lower back, shoulder and neck areas. And if not properly taken care of, these injuries can become a long-term problem.

Credit: Phil Gradwell/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

But these injuries are totally preventable with regular foam rolling. Often an overlooked part of the fitness routine, foam rolling can help you recover from injuries, ease knots, get rid of adhesions in the muscles and connective tissue, and increase flexibility.

“Most of my clients come into the gym, sign in, and go directly to the weight room, cardio machines, or group fitness classes, and skip the most important step — foam rolling,” Josh Feldman, a certified personal trainer and fitness manager at Crunch Fitness in New York City, told Women’s Health magazine. ”The problem is that if you don’t foam roll first, your muscles are likely too tight when you start your workout, which means you can’t get deep enough into whatever you’re doing, and you don’t get the best results.”

You don’t have to be an athlete or dedicated gym rat to use a foam roller, either — in fact, everyone should use one. Many people suffer from back pain and poor posture, often due to sitting in an office all day. Just a few minutes with a foam roller every night will improve posture and reduce back pain.

Foam rollers come in various sizes and forms — you should find one that fits your specific needs.

For example, if you’re looking for a deep tissue massage, you might choose a roller that can target individual muscle groups, such as the RBX Massage Roller.

Danielle Tarasiuk

Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.