By Rick Halle-Podell, Licensed Massage Therapist, Founder of Massage Therapy of Oak Park

As we are athletes ourselves, Massage Therapy of Oak Park understands the importance of starting and maintaining a regular exercise regimen. Any of the following activities can add immensely to your emotional and physical health. As the body needs time to accommodate increased activity, manage the expenditure of energy, recover from exertion and heal should injuries arise, therapeutic massage should also be part of your exercise routine.

 

 Cycling

This form of exercise has changed considerably over the years. Bikes come in all styles, colors, sizes and prices. Your cycling options include commuting to work on public roads, long rides on trails and single-track mountain biking.

Physical Benefits—Greatly improves cardiovascular fitness with little impact to the joints.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—Quadriceps and glutes.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Try mountain biking or jumping/dancing on pedals to improve balance and increase upper body strength.

Considerations—Little upper body movement; muscle imbalance between quads and hamstrings can lead to injuries.

Massage—Focuses on legs, lower back and shoulders. Pay particular attention to hands and forearms to maintain strength and ability to control the bike.

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 Rowing

A perfect activity for those who love the water and want a strenuous workout.

Physical Benefits—Tremendous aerobic workout.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—Works all the muscles.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Concentrate on using all your muscles in unison.

Considerations—Maintain good posture to reduce risk of back strain.

Massage—Focuses on lower back and the biceps and triceps in the arms.

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 Running

Running ignited the exercise boom of the 1970s and 1980s. If you’re going to start running, be prepared to spend $75-$150 for a good pair of running shoes (i.e., supportive, cushioned, comfortable, appropriately-sized).

Physical Benefits—Improves cardiovascular fitness, helps lower the body’s stress response and lowers blood pressure.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—Strengthens the heart and builds lower body muscles such as the calves, quads, glutes and hamstrings.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Identify and maintain your target heart rate. Use this heart rate calculator provided by the Mayo Clinic.

Considerations—Running does not work the upper body or abdominals. It can lead to tight hamstrings, overdeveloped quads, plantar fasciitis (i.e., a painful inflammation extending along the sole of the foot towards the toes) and medial tibial stress syndrome (i.e., shin splints).

Massage—Concentrates on the lower body muscles, particularly the calves, heels and feet. Use deep friction and trigger point techniques. Stretching is utilized to increase range of motions and to prevent injuries.

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 Swimming

Summer is the ideal time to head for the local swimming pool or beach, though swimming can be a year-round activity. Swimming works every muscle group from head to toe and gets the heart pumping with very little chance of injury.

Physical Benefits—Improves cardiovascular fitness while building and toning muscles.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—All muscles, including the heart.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Can increase aerobic output while maintaining 55%-75% maximum heart rate.

Considerations—Swimming burns a lot of calories, but not fat. Competitive swimmers’ bodies are V-shaped due to shoulder, chest and torso development, but muscle tone generally disappears from the waist down.

Massage—Focuses on trapezius muscles of the upper back and shoulders, as well as the hamstrings.

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 Walking

Walking is the most popular outdoor activity for individuals of all ages.

Physical Benefits—Increases heart rate, strengthens bones and joints, burns calories and tones muscles.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—Quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Maintain a steady pace for 3.5 miles.

Considerations—Although it firms your muscles without building bulk, measuring any cardiovascular improvement can be difficult.

Massage—Focuses on the lower legs and feet; special attention may be paid to upper arms and shoulders.

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 Weight-Lifting

Weight training is beneficial for individuals of any age.

Physical Benefits—Expands muscles’ cells, creating bulk and strength.

Muscles That Benefit the Most—The major muscle groups targeted during the workout.

Goal for Maximum Benefit—Increased weight leads to increased muscle mass.

Considerations—Weight training does not work the heart and can stress the joints.

Massage—Concentrates on muscle groups targeted for development. For heavy lifting, focuses on pectorals, shoulders, neck, triceps, biceps, lower back and knees.

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