Can Massage Help You Lose Weight?

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on October 9, 2019

Losing weight is almost synonymous to enduring weeks of pain and suffering, and pretty much giving up our indulgence to high-calorie intakes. As they often say, “no pain, no gain.” And for most people who had gone through the process, they’d say the results would be very fulfilling. Who wouldn’t agree to leaner and skinnier body physique, anyway? So when you heard of massage as a way to lose weight, it’s really tempting to turn that engine on and rush to your nearest massage therapist. But can massage really help you lose weight?

There have been many studies confirming the health benefits of massage. While it’s probably the most relaxing way to reward your body after going through a tough and tiring day, it also helps you improve your mental health. A good mental state means your stress levels are reduced, thereby improving your overall behavior: on how you think, on how you feel, and on how you behave towards life.

While there is no direct link between massage and losing weight, as there are no significant amount fats burned during a massage session, several studies, however, suggest that some of the effects of massage, such as reducing stress and calming your body are associated and contributory to almost all weight loss programs.

Massages alone cannot burn your fats, so no amount of time and money for massage can get you to perfect body shape. Although there is a study suggesting that regular massage can eliminate fat accumulation known to us cellulite, researchers (1) say this is only temporary, and the cellulitis can still reappear.

How Massage Helps Weight Loss

With that said, let’s explore how massage can help you reduce your weight faster with your current weight loss programs, and how does fat-busting really work?

Improves your mental health

Some refer to massage (2) as the “The Healing Touch” as its effects have proven to improve mental stability. This belief had been passed on generations to generations until there were specific studies to confirm the theory.

Research (3) published by the International Journal of Neuroscience said people who had undergone through massage therapy had increased their serotonin levels by 28% and their dopamine levels by 31% while decreasing their cortisol levels.

Serotonin is a body chemical known as the “happy pill” because it contributes to the wellbeing, while Dopamine influences a person’s mood, sleep, memory, learning, and concentration. On the other hand, increased cortisol levels are linked weight gain and high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, negative mood, reduced energy levels, and diabetes.

These effects of massage are contributory to reducing stress (4), depression, and other mental health disorders directly linked to weight gain. Stress is known to wreak havoc on our metabolism, lead to burning fewer calories, and even increase our cravings of junk foods. By decreasing the chance of suffering to these, massage is a great way to bring your body to its hormonal balance, and subsequently, aiding you to lose weight.

The National Institute of Health in the United States said that over 80% of people who are diagnosed with mental health disorders are overweight or obese (5). And a weight loss program, coupled with setting a good mental state helps them lose weight, and is most certainly to keep it off.

Mentally ill patients who undergo medical interventions are also inclined to having a successful weight loss attempt.

A recent study conducted in Spain also came out with significant findings linking better mental health to losing weight. A study (6) published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website showed that participants of the study who had improved or remained stable continuously lost weight while those whose condition had worsened had gained weight, significantly, for 6 to 12 months.

Boosts your metabolism

An increased metabolic rate is known to helping you lose weight as it lets you burn more calories, and the easier it is to lose weight (7). And that’s how a regular massage is linked losing weight, as the former improves your blood circulation to give way to a better interchanged of nutrients between your blood and your tissue cells.

Healthy blood circulation plays an integral part in delivering nutrients to cells and our body’ vital organs. Without proper blood circulation, the bodily functions for effective metabolism are disrupted, resulting in obesity and high blood pressure.

How is a good massage actually and directly linked to having proper circulation and eventually having a high metabolic rate?

Scientific explanations said a regular massage increases the flow of oxygen in the muscles and cells of the body. The pressure produced during the massage session essentially moves the blood through the clogged areas. This technique paves the way to a clear flow of blood through the veins. Throughout the process, the lactic acids and other toxins of your body are also released from your muscles, preventing high blood pressure and improving functions related to the affected part of the body. Consequently, the lymph and blood vessels are freed from clogging and unnecessary formation, allowing the nutrients to easily flow in and help the body rebuild itself.

As studies support the relation of good blood circulation to high metabolic rate, many massage therapy experts believe that regular massage will aid you to a faster and healthier weight loss program.

Doctors from many wellness centers have also weighed in on what types of massage could help in losing weight. Massage such Swedish is proven to have a lasting effect on the blood circulation as it loosens muscles and tissues. A self-massage on affected parts or muscles can also keep circulation normal and stable before you can be able to have your regular massage.

Prevents injuring during workout

If you’re on an intensive workout program for weight loss, the occurrence of muscle injuries are normal but could be quite manageable and preventable through safe means. For you to be able to have an undisrupted workout, injury prevention management is necessary. An injury will stop from your joining your normal gym activities for days, and even up to weeks.

One of the best and relaxing ways to prevent workout injuries is just a proper massage from your best therapist. There are many types of massages to prevent injuries, including sports massage and remedial massage. These massages also aid rehabilitation and prevention of getting re-injured.

A sports massage is similar to Swedish massage and geared towards athletes and those who are undergoing intensive physical training. This massage focuses on parts of the body that are overused over the course of training. Such as when you are building muscles on your arms, this is quite helpful to relax and let the lactic acids and toxins that are built up flow freely, preventing further sores from happening.

Another type of injury-preventing massage is deep tissue massage. This applies strong pressure but slow strokes to reach the inner layers of muscles and the connective tissues surrounding it. The massage procedures are performed to break up scar tissues and break down adhesions that often cause interruption of blood flow, causing pain and inflammation.

The potential benefits of deep tissue massage include the following:

  • Easing of chronic muscle pain and tension;
  • Aids injury rehabilitation;
  • Improves postural problem;
  • Relieves back pain and neck pain;
  • Eases condition-related pain;
  • Aids sports-related muscle recovery; and
  • Improves limited mobility.

All of these benefits are said to have a significant impact on your regular exercise. By reducing the tendencies of having scar tissues through stretching the fascia (connective tissue around the muscles), your risk of being injured due strenuous activities is also reduced.

While there are many techniques and practices to avoid workout injuries, we really could not say that accidents don’t happen in the gym. And still the answer- massage.

Loosens tight muscles for flexibility

While flexibility is often related to or can be a cause for injury prevention as mentioned above, it’s also worth a more in-depth discussion to emphasize how massage loosen your tight muscles so you can perform a more complex type of exercise and workout. Massage works on loosening tight muscles by breaking up knots in muscles that lead to restricted movement.

When your masseur tries to break up knots in your tissues, blood flow is improved, releasing tension in the muscles and increasing oxygen supply. This anatomical process helps in the lubrication of muscles that are sticking together due to overuse brought by strenuous activities such as exercising and working out.

With improved flexibility brought about by regular massage therapy, muscles are able to function correctly. This result gives your body the ability to move and perform daily tasks optimally. The techniques for this type of massage include stretching the joints and relieving specific points.

With greater flexibility, you can be able to perform your physical tasks with minimal restrictions so you can stay on track of your goal to build a better, healthier, and more pleasant body physique.

Aids digestive function

The digestive function plays a major role in weight loss. With sluggish digestive function, the foods taken into your body are not broken down into consumable energy, leaving you hungry at all times. As a result, you’ll see yourself with fats creeping out around the belly.

In order to attain an optimal digestive function, foods taken through the digestive system must be broken down into permeable particles so the body the can absorb the right nutrients, and the wastes eliminated through the Secretion System. By this process, the body is using all the nutrients that come from the foods we eat, and this actually prevents and reduces fats from accumulating inside the body. This is a simple process of digestion and metabolism.

In connection to weight loss, a proper digestive function can be achieved through the help of several massage techniques, one of which an abdominal massage.

Abdominal massage is seen to have a direct impact on the improvement of digestion by easing out the passage of food through the digestive tract, according to a study in 2011. Not only will you have better digestion, but it will also have toxins flushed out of your body. No wonder why abdominal massage is one of the most recommended by many massage therapists around the world for people seeking to have their belly fats cut. This type of massage, however, is not recommended to be performed right after you eat or take a bath.

Conclusion

There are no scientific proofs that massage burn fats or make you lose weight through the process. However, there are many studies that suggest that massage can be a very wholesome and relaxing aid to your journey of attaining your perfect weight, or waistline. Aside from being rewarding, getting a massage regularly gives you a chance to set up a perfect lifestyle when everything mentioned above falls into its right places. However, before you make that appointment to the nearest massage therapist in your area, be sure to talk it out first with your physician because there might be some medical issues to be considered. When all is clear, you can have the most soothing and relaxing massage worry-free and with peace of mind.

References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155948/
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1117024/
(3) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00207450590956459
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15730338
(5) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/weight-loss-people-serious-mental-illness
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5893461/
(7) https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/does-metabolism-matter-in-weight-loss

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