Why should you use a foam roller, a 90cm long, skinny piece of firmish foam in your workout?
The foam roller is essentially an unstable surface. When you lie or stand or roll on the roller you will wobble. Your body will be instinctively searching for stability.
The rollers instability will also challenge your balance. Whether you lie on it, stand on it or incorporate it into lunges and lifts.
Generally, the more we challenge our balance the better chance we have of improving it. We know that balance control declines with age and that impaired balance is a major risk factor for falls amongst older adults.
Enhancing your balance reactions is also beneficial on the sporting field, when you are required to respond and move quickly.
When you are on or using the roller you have to think and focus. Especially when performing your very skill based exercises. We know that you achieve more muscle fibre recruitment when you think about what you are doing.
Your slow, thought controlled movement on the roller will make you aware of how important your breathing is; in relation to your core and your health in general. Many of us only breathe with our upper chest and as such, hold a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders. As a physio, I have found the roller, when you lay on top of it, to be an invaluable tool in helping people learn about diaphragmatic breathing.
Your posture is enhanced because the foam roller helps you to learn how to switch off overactive, tight and sore muscle groups. And exercise your deeper muscles, particularly in your neck. Many of the exercises here encourage you to be aware of where your neck and spine are when you are exercising. You will also have a better understanding of your core and the differences between each side of your body.
Flexibility refers to the range of motion at a given joint. A lot of the exercises with the roller encourage you to move through a full range of motion. Sometimes under load or with resistance.
Stretching is different to flexibility and can lead to an increase in flexibility. (See to stretch or not to stretch) to learn more. Rolling out your muscles will help you to feel relaxed and ‘lengthened’. It is what most people associate with when using a foam roller. There is some debate about the rollers ability to ‘release fascia’ (and you will find out more about this later) but the general consensus is that ” people who foam roll after exercise report less muscle soreness afterward”. And importantly, there appear to be no negative effects of rolling out muscles.
The roller is suitable for everyone 5-80+. Regardless of age, body type, activity level (non exercisers, beginners through to athletes), stress level, occupation, condition or symptom*. In my classes I have 82 year old ladies exercising for the first time with a roller, with great success.
The roller is a relatively inexpensive piece of exercise equipment. It doesn’t take up a lot of space. It is lightweight, portable and stores quite easily behind a door or under the bed. It is far better though to have it somewhere visible so the you are visually reminded to do your exercises.
I in fact created the vinyl clad rollers featured throughout this website at the request of a client. Her family used the roller all the time and as such it lived in her lounge room. She was after something far more appealing to leave out on display.
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