Research Project Description

The Influence of Massage Therapy on Stress Levels and Weight Management in Women is a study examining whether weekly massages lower the stress hormone coritsol—which is responsible for energy regulation and relocation of fat deposits to the abdomen—and subsequently enhance weight reduction. The study measures cortisol levels and other markers of stress in twenty-four overweight women taking part concurrently in a weight management program and a massage therapy program.

This study is funded by the National Institutes of Health EARDA Pilot Project.

Project Title

The Influence of Massage Therapy on Stress Levels and Weight Management in Women


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As an aspiring physical therapist, conducting and analyzing research will play an integral role in the future career of Heidi Sande ’11. This is one reason she wanted to be involved in a collaborative research project with Mark Blegen, associate professor of exercise and sports science, and Alisse Indrelie ’12, which began in the fall of 2010.

“Physical therapists need data that supports what we are recommending to patients is truly benefiting them and research helps us do that,” Sande says. “It’s always important to have more information.”

Like many other students, Sande was already juggling a busy schedule between school, work, and being a collegiate athlete in both cross country and softball, before working on the research project. However, Sande urges students to make student-faculty collaborative research a priority. “Don’t rule out research because of your schedule. Talk to the professor you are interested in doing research with and see what your options are.”

Sande says had she decided not to be a part of this study, she would not have had the chance to work with Blegen outside of the classroom. “Professor Blegen is really fun and has been a great mentor. He has been invested in my learning throughout this project,” she says.

Sande says she is already incorporating the skills she has learned from her experience into her current academic coursework. “Now I can read a textbook or case studies about an experiment and understand the steps the researchers went through.”

In the fall, Heidi will begin her first year in the St. Kate’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. She says what she has learned during this research experience will carry over to her graduate studies.