It might seem an odd question to ask: How many calories can be burned foam rolling? For many, the assumption would be very little, yet with so many of us stuck in lockdown, the reason becomes more obvious. Across the country, people have reported a slight (or not so slight) weight gain over the summer. A product of long days spent close to the fridge and no pressing need to achieve that ‘beach bod’. But, as the season draws slowly to a close, we wonder how to begin the process of shedding pounds—before Christmas comes and we slide back into over-indulging!
This leads us to question: Not just how many calories we can burn doing our regular exercise routine. How many calories can we burn within our warmup and cool down routines too?
And how do we optimise the burn?
How Does Foam Rolling Work?
Undoubtedly, a few of you out there will have a foam roller gathering dust somewhere in the corner. Well, it might be time to dust it off and if you need only one reason, let it be this: It is a great way to get the massage so many desperately want, without having to pay someone else to touch you. Not something to be sniffed at during a pandemic.
The reason this is such a great massage is how the roller targets muscles. After a workout, muscles are generally sore, tired and often strained. During cool-down, the muscle fibres and fascia sitting above can stick together. This is how knots form, causing restrictions in movement.
Generally, the most we will do after exercise is to stretch a little. This is a form of ‘damage control’. Stretching helps to keep those muscles, tendons and joints from stiffening and becoming painful. But this can only do so much. This is where foam rolling comes in!
Whereas stretches help to keep us limber, it does little to get deep into the muscle tissue. Foam rolling allows for myofascial release. This is where the fascia sitting above the muscle gets worked on alongside the muscle. The pressure of the roller on the area of tension pushes the blood away. As you roll off the surface, fresh oxygenated blood rushes back in. It is this pressure then release that encourages softening, as the fresh blood promotes healing.
How Many Calories Can Be Burned Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling has long been the preserve of the athlete post workout. Trainers swear by them, and those who do use a foam roller know the discomfort that they can produce. They’re also no strangers to the exquisite bliss felt after a foam rolling session!
It is generally accepted that there will be some pain associated with foam rolling. After all, you are working out the knots and tension and most likely after a serious work out. However, this is somewhat of an urban myth. Whilst discomfort is natural, large amounts of pain could mean you are overdoing it.
When foam rolling, it is better to think about your posture and core than getting deep into the muscle on the first go. Studies have shown it is better to regularly roll out muscles with a foam roller. So small daily exercises, rather than once a week for an hour!
But how does this apply to how many calories can be burned foam rolling? Well, when you maintain a good posture whilst maintaining a tight core, calories get burned! More so than if you were to slouch with the midsection remaining soft.
On average, you burn about 238 calories burned per hour through foam rolling. This is based on a weight of around 150lbs or just over 10 stone. Doesn’t seem like a lot does it? But when you ensure your muscles are engaged and you are breathing correctly. Yogis swear by Ujayi breathing, which is said to heat up the body from the inside. This internal heat also burns calories! And this breath work can be combined with foam rolling for maximum effect.
Foam Roller Workouts You Can Do Anywhere
As a general pre and post work out tool, the foam roller is amazingly effective. There are, however, more ways to make the roller work for you.
Incorporating the foam roller into certain exercise reps can serve to tighten your core muscles and increase the burn. We have put together three simple yet effective foam roller exercises that will serve everyone. From the novice to the well versed.
Single Leg Bridge Lift With Foam Roller
Lay on your back with arms by your side. Place the right foot on the roller with the knee bent slightly towards the ceiling. Lift the left leg into the air above the roller, knee bent. Inhale and lift the pelvis as the right leg lifts 3 inches into the air. Exhale and drop the leg and pelvis to almost touch the floor. Repeat 5 times with the breath. Rest, and repeat on the other side. This burns 36 calories on average (based on 140lbs/10 stone bodyweight).
This is a great exercise as it is an inversion. Having the head lower than the pelvis pushes the blood towards your heart and brain. This also stimulates and strengthens the thigh muscles and works the core muscles as it works to stabilise the body on the foam roller.
Foam Roller Pushups
Place hands on the foam roller, knees on the floor. Curl the toes curled under and lift off the knees. Your spine should be one straight line from the shoulders to the heels. Take a deep inhale, exhale and lower halfway to the foam roller. Inhale and push up with straight arms. Complete 5 reps then rest, repeating up to 3 times when starting out. This can be tough on the wrists so be careful to give them time to recover. Complete these reps and burn 45 calories on average (based on 140lbs/10 stone bodyweight).
The addition of the foam roller here makes your core muscles work harder to stabilise yourself. This is great for the arms too and also increases the burn of your workout. Watch those calories fly!
Kneeling Foam Roll-Ups
Start with your hands on the floor, wrists directly under the shoulders. Place the foam roller on the floor and rest shinbone on top, just below the knee. The knees should be on the floor for initial support. Lift off the knees, inhaling slowly as you draw the knees in towards the torso about halfway. The foam roller should roll down toward the ankle naturally. Exhale and roll back towards the starting position. Complete 10 reps and rest. Repeat these 3 times. This will burn 45 calories on average (based on 140lbs/10 stone bodyweight).
Another great core exercise, this also works the thighs. You can even include a little pushups when extending back to the starting position to work those biceps and triceps!
Can Foam Rolling Make You Slimmer?
Whilst there is no scientific proof that foam rolling can make you slimmer, rolling can be used for lymphatic drainage massage. This is a type of massage that helps to push water and toxins trapped between the skin, fascia and the muscles into the lymphatic system. This is an important system that helps to keep our bodies healthy and free of disease.
When the excess water and toxins sit below the skins surface, it affects us overall. Water retention, inflammation and puffiness can all disappear. It may not make you slimmer in the short term, but as foam roller exercises target the muscles and fascia, any time you use a foam roller you are engaging in lymphatic drainage massage. Which is a great thing!
And that’s not all. Problem areas on the skins surface, such as cellulite or scarring, can actually be aided by using a foam roller. When toxins are removed and oxygenated blood rushes in, the skin begins to heal and brighten.
Does Foam Rolling Help with Flexibility?
Improving your flexibility as an athlete is a big deal. This is why so many trainers loudly proclaim the benefits of stretching pre and post work out. With good flexibility comes better range or movement, speed and strengths, but why is this?
When you have good muscle and joint flexibility, your bodies moving parts work better with each other. Movement is smoother and the muscles do not have to exert so much force to prompt this action.
This is why stretching is so good for your body—especially before exercise. A well stretched out muscle is better able to receive fresh oxygenated blood. And as blood is pumped in, it must be pumped out again. With it goes the waste materials that are no longer useful for muscle function.
This is why, in turn, foam rolling is so beneficial for flexibility. Especially when completed alongside dynamic stretching before a workout. The exercise allows for your muscles to be fully open and ready for movement and when you are able to exert yourself more, you burn more calories!
It is true that foam rolling alone may not burn all that many calories, but it is the accumulation of good practices pre-workout that causes better range of movement. This leads to more exertion during exercise that increase the rate of calories burned.
Other Benefits of Foam Rolling: Many Calories Burned, Many Ways
Foam rolling promotes elasticity in the muscles. This occurs when regularly using a roam roller either before or after exercise, as the knots are significantly reduced in the interim. This allows the muscle to work longer without being fatigued.
We now know the one huge benefit of better flexibility is that it can increase the effectiveness of your work out. But what this also does is decrease the chances of injury. Through stretching and rolling out the muscles, the range of motion and increased blood flow reduces the chances of over stretching.
If you lead a sedentary life, finding the drive to get up off the sofa and exercise can be hard. This is because even doing nothing can cause muscles to get stiff and sore. So, daily tasks like climbing stairs can become a real chore. Foam rolling can help to improve range of motion and reduce muscle fatigue even for these folks. With this comes an increase of oxygenated blood pumping to the muscles. So taking the stairs instead of waiting for the lift will feel more appealing.
Can Foam Rolling Be Harmful?
Whilst foam rolling holds many advantages—both for regular fitness fans and those just looking to improve movement—as with any health and fitness routine there are warnings to heed.
Now that you know the calories burned from foam rolling, you might attempt to do a long session. Well, as with many things, too much can be damaging to your health. Placing pressure on the muscles for extended periods of time can cause adhesions and damage that will take time to repair. It can also cause bruising, which will impede your chances of rolling every day.
It is always best to roll out the muscles a little and often, rather than trying to work out all the knots in one go. The gentle approach will work wonders. Many regular rollers will understand that there is a slight amount of pain that goes with the territory, but it should never be unbearable!
When foam rolling, prominent bones and larger areas where nerves and blood vessels congregating close to the surface should be avoided. This will be around the hipbones at the front of the pelvis, and the very inner thigh close into the sex organs. Placing pressure on these areas can cause untold damage and even rupture vessels.
Finally: Never place the foam roller at the lower back. This is a very sensitive area with only the inter-spinal muscles protecting it. Rolling your lower back will only cause more harm than good. Foam rolling the top of the spine is perfectly fine and can be very relieving. Just ensure to stop before you reach the mid spine, right around where the ribcage ends.
It is also always advisable to consult a medical health practitioner when exercising the spine.
Does It Matter How Many Calories Can Be Burned Foam Rolling?
It may be fun to dig into how many calories you are burning with each exercise. It is interesting to know what exercises burn fat and calories faster, or what areas are targeted. But with this can come a leap into obsession. Focus on finding fun and engaging activities that will keep you coming back again and again.
Fitness is a commitment to helping improve your body and quality of life and one of these key factors is range of movement. Yes, a fair few calories can be burned, but the most interesting facts to take away about foam rolling are:
- Improves muscle recovery and elasticity
- Increases strength, speed and overall performance in other activities
- Improves range of movement overall
- Can be done at home as part of lymphatic drainage massage
- Increases bloody circulation which helps repair damaged muscles
Burning calories can be an addictive game. Even more addictive, however, is the foam roller’s power to ease tense muscles and create a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. A foam roller is an inexpensive piece of equipment to keep handy. One that can vastly improve your overall well-being if you commit to just 5-10 minutes a day. Try it out today, and boost your chances of improved range of movement and higher energy levels.
And when you feel like that, you will be raring to get on and move your body any way you can!