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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In February 2011, one of Alisse Indrelie’s dreams came true. She was accepted into graduate school for physical therapy at St. Kate’s. This fall she will begin working towards her doctorate in physical therapy as part of a St. Kate’s unique 3+3 dual-degree program which combines three years of undergraduate coursework in exercise sports science and three years of graduate coursework in physical therapy.

Indrelie ‘12 believes that being a part of a collaborative research project with Mark Blegen, associate professor of exercise and sports science, and Heidi Sande ’12, helped contribute to her acceptance into graduate school.

“Having research experience is not common as an undergraduate student, but conducting research is an important part of graduate school,” she says. “So, I knew this project [with Professor Blegen] would help prepare me.”

The study, which began in the fall of 2010, examined the role stress, specifically the stress hormone cortisol, plays in women trying to manage their weight. Massage therapy is the relaxation technique used throughout the study to see if lower stress levels enhance weight loss.

Each time Indrelie collected data from the research participants she was able to further develop her spoken and written communication skills. Both of which will play important roles in her future as a physical therapist.

Indrelie says staying up-to-date with current research is also important in healthcare. “New research findings are continually coming out and knowing what’s accurate is crucial,” she says. “Because of this project, I am able to talk about research more in-depth now.”

Indrelie says she’s had to adapt and be willing to embrace the unknowns throughout her research experience. She believes being flexible will help future St. Kate’s students be successful during their research projects. “Know there is going to be fluctuation when doing research and each week could be different. Research for me is different every single week even though it is the same experiment of data.”

She recommends that students at St. Kate’s reach out to their professors and advisors in fields they are passionate about. “They can help you find new opportunities and become more knowledgeable, whether that’s through research or other projects.”

To learn more about this research project, please visit The Influence of Massage Therapy on Stress Levels and Weight Management in Women.