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The Importance of Stretching Instead of Heavy Exercise after a Massage

By Sally Birdling
from Your Massage Double Bay

After a therapeutic massage, whether its soothing or energising, it might be tempting to hit the gym or go for a run to continue feeling invigorated. However, while you might be tempted to exercise vigorously afterward, here is why stretching can be a far superior alternative and how it compliments your massage therapy

Massage Increases Muscle Sensitivity:

By employing techniques like kneading, friction and compression, massage relaxes tight muscles, it breaks up adhesions in the muscular fibres and increases blood flow throughout the body. After a massage your body needs time to rejuvenate and recover and to implement these changes and this can lead to increased sensitivity in the muscles. So, while the body is recovering, and while the muscles are still sensitive, rigorous physical activity might counteract these therapeutic effects and lead to injury or muscle strain

Fatigue And Reduced Muscle Strength:

Whilst your muscles are adjusting, re-aligning and recovering it can also temporarily reduce their strength. As stated above your body needs time to rejuvenate after a massage and this can lead to initial fatigue. By opting for heavy exercise immediately afterward you may risk over-taxing your already tired muscles, this could affect your coordination and you may experience slight dizziness or impaired balance – not the perfect situation to start a strenuous work out.


Massage promotes the release of metabolic waste products from your muscles into the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Heavy exercise may further exacerbate this process requiring more water intake to flush out these toxins. The need for more fluid may not be as easy as just feeling thirsty, therefore if you don’t replenish fluids properly dehydration may result and you could experience muscle cramping, headaches or dizziness.

Why Its Beneficial To Stretch After A Massage

Enhanced proprioception

Proprioception refers to your body’s ability to sense its position within its environment. Proprioceptors which are sensory receptors located in the muscles, joints and tendons are stimulated when stretching. These receptors relay information about the body’s position and movement to the brain. As stretching occurs the proprioceptors become more responsive, thus enhancing the body’s awareness of its position and movement. By improving proprioceptive accuracy, stretching contributes to better balance and stability. This is particularly beneficial in preventing falls and injuries, especially in older adults or those recovering from injury.

It Is Also an Excellent Time For Facilitated Stretching:

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a technique that involves both stretching and contracting the muscle(s) being targeted. It is considered one of the most effective forms of stretching for improving flexibility and increasing range of motion. PNF stretching after a massage is an excellent way to maximize the benefits of both therapies. The relaxed state of the muscles post massage provides an ideal environment for PNF stretching which can lead to improved flexibility, greater range of motion and general improvement of physical performance. It’s important to ensure that PNF stretching is performed correctly and safely and unless you’re experienced in PNF it’s ideally best undertaken with the guidance of a trained professional to avoid any potential injuries.

Circulation Boost:

As previously mentioned, massaging promotes blood flow; gently stretching post-massage can help continue this increased blood circulation. Increased blood circulation enhances the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to your muscles and promotes the removal of the metabolic waste products delivering them to the lymphatic system. It also helps your muscles recover reducing the possibility of soreness that may be present the day after a deep tissue massage.

Activation of The Parasympathetic Nervous System, Relaxation and Sleep:

The parasympathetic nervous system(PNS), often referred to as the “rest and digest” system, is responsible for the body’s functions that promote homeostasis or balance and amongst many other functions the PSN regulates the heart rate and blood pressure. As massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, gentle stretching afterwards helps maintain the relaxed state by reducing the production of stress hormones (cortisol), slowing breathing and lowering heart rate and blood pressure. The PSN stimulates the production of relaxation hormones (endorphins) by relaxing the body and enhancing sleep quality which is far preferable than jolting the body back into a stressed state caused by heavy exercise.

So How Long Should You Wait to Exercise After A Massage?

The decision to exercise after a massage should be based on individual circumstances and the type of massage received. If the massage was intense or if you’re feeling fatigued, it may be best to wait a day before resuming your regular exercise routine. However, very light physical activity can be beneficial in promoting blood circulation and accelerating the recovery process. While some suggest a 24-hour waiting period to allow the body to fully recover from the massage before engaging in heavy exercise, others argue that light exercise can actually aid in the recovery process. The key is to listen to your body and not push it beyond its limits.


To make the most out of your massage session and ensure optimal recovery, it is crucial to let your body recover and allow it to get the full benefit of the physical and psychological effects of the massage. So, whilst your muscles are adjusting, re-aligning and recovering allow your body to centre itself by avoiding heavy exercise shortly after your treatment as it is likely to increase your risk of injury and will certainly reduce the beneficial effects of your treatment. Instead, opt for gentle stretching exercises to complement your massage treatment and enhance its benefits. This will not only improve your flexibility but also significantly enhance your overall well-being. So, remember to stretch it out and give those muscles a gentle boost post-massage!

More about the author

Sally Birdling
Sally Birdling
– Your Massage Double Bay

Hi, I'm Sally Birdling, owner and operator of Your Massage Double Bay in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs. I am a bodywork therapist and have been massaging in my Double Bay practice since 1995. I specialise in remedial massage with an emphasis on deep tissue massage, pain relief and injury recovery. However, with almost 30 years of experience my treatments are tailored to suit individual needs and requirements. I have been a member of the ATMS since 1997.

To find more information about my clinic please visit me at or on Facebook at