According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, light activity after a workout can help ease muscle discomfort just as well as a massage.
Researchers asked subjects to perform specific shoulder exercises. Two days later, they received a 10-minute massage on one shoulder and performed 10 minutes of exercise (a lighter intensity version of the original moves) on the other. Participants felt equal amounts of relief in both shoulders.
Researchers suggest that light exercise increases circulation to muscles and may help speed up the body’s drainage of metabolic waste linked to muscle aches. Previous research found that increased blood flow speeds delivery of nutrients to damaged muscles, makes tissues more elastic, and increases range of motion—all of which can help relieve pain and boost recovery.
Moving your muscles isn’t the only way to ease muscle discomfort. Try these natural strategies:
- Stretching—after a warm-up – You know the importance of stretching, but when you stretch is just as important. Limbering up relaxes and lengthens tight muscles, but stretching “cold” muscles can cause injury, so be sure to stretch after you’ve completed a light warm-up.
- Omega-3s – the healthy fats in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce soreness and ease inflammation 48 hours after a strength-training workout, according to research published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. Omega-3s are naturally found in foods such as salmon, spinach, and nuts— and may help boost circulation as well.
- Foam rollers – Similar to massage, foam rollers increase blood flow to your muscles through applied pressure. You decide which muscles you work, so you can make sure to focus on the areas that need the most attention.
- Heat therapy – Warm temperatures are helpful for increasing blood flow to sore muscles. Soak in a hot bath, or if the ache is isolated, apply heat directly to the spot that’s causing you the most discomfort.