A short massage and a little rest helps the body fight stress, study finds

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Researchers say finding time for relaxation can greatly benefit consumers’ mental and physical health

With stress levels at an all-time high in recent months, it’s important to find ways to incorporate relaxation into your day-to-day routine. 

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Konstanz found that consumers can help reduce their stress levels and feel more relaxed in just 10 minutes by resting or receiving a quick massage. 

“To get a better handle on the negative effects of stress, we need to understand its opposite -- relaxation,” said researcher Jens Pruessner. “Relaxation therapies show great promise as a holistic way to treat stress, but more systematic scientific appraisal of these methods is needed.” 

Improving mental and physical health

To better understand how massage and rest can help improve consumers’ physical and mental well-being, the researchers had 60 participants test out a variety of different relaxation techniques. One group of participants was instructed to rest for 10 minutes while a second group received a 10-minute neck and shoulder massage; a third group received a 10-minute head and neck massage. 

The researchers were most interested in understanding how these interventions affected the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for overall body relaxation. To get a measure of this during the experiments, the researchers monitored heart rate variability and had participants self-report on their stress and relaxation levels. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that the participants experienced improved relaxation from both a physical and mental standpoint following all three interventions. Participants in the massage groups saw the greatest improvement in heart rate variability, suggesting that they were able to relax the most.

“We are very encouraged by the findings that short periods of disengagement are enough to relax not just the mind but also the body,” said researcher Maria Meier. “You don’t need a professional treatment in order to relax. Having somebody gently stroke your shoulders, or even just resting your head on the table for ten minutes, is an effective way to boost your body’s physiological engine of relaxation.” 

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