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How massage therapy can help you stay healthy and active

(ARA) - For many people, being active means fun in the sun that includes outdoor activities like running, hiking, biking and team sports. But an active lifestyle can take a...

(ARA) - For many people, being active means fun in the sun that includes outdoor activities like running, hiking, biking and team sports. But an active lifestyle can take a toll on the body and bring about aches and pains from muscles and joints that aren't used to being utilized if you are always trying new activities.

"There are a number of ways to keep your body healthy. However, one often overlooked but beneficial component for a healthy lifestyle is massage therapy," says Amy Wiltgen, massage therapy instructor at Everest College - Merrionette Park. "Even the simplest relaxation massages will decrease stress and improve circulation, reduce fatigue, and help keep your muscles, bones and connective tissue in good working condition."

Wiltgen offers some tips for choosing a massage therapist and maximizing the experience:

Find a professional. The first step is to find professional therapists who are licensed and insured, and have a certificate of professional training in their specialty or procedure. "Perhaps most helpful is to get a personal recommendation from a friend or look for testimonials or reviews on websites," says Wiltgen. "Also look for academic credentials, such as a diploma from an accredited program."

Ask questions and describe health issues. When you call for an appointment, have questions ready to get a good sense of your compatibility with and the professionalism and personality of the therapist.

Communicate. Upon arriving at the appointment, make sure to let the therapist know your health history and any preferences for depth of pressure, room temperature, choices in music and allergies to oils or lotions. Don't be afraid to speak up to ask the therapist to make any adjustments during the massage.

Relax. It's important to relax. Let your mind and body go to enjoy all the benefits of the massage. "Breathing normally helps facilitate relaxation," says Wiltgen. "People often stop or limit their breathing when they feel anxious or a sensitive area is massaged."

Avoid pain. A common misconception is that the massage has to hurt to feel good. "Whether it's a professional giving a massage, or a friend or family member, communicate any discomfort immediately," says Wiltgen.

Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink extra water before and after the massage to help flush toxins from the body and make sure muscles are properly hydrated.

"Having a massage on a regular basis can be a powerful ally in your health care regimen, and will help keep you at your optimal best," adds Wiltgen.

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