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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

The Effect of Mechanical Massage and Mental Training on Heart Rate Variability and Cortisol in Swedish Employees-A Randomized Explorative Pilot Study

Van Dijk, Willeke; Huizink, Anja C.; Muller, Jasmin; Uvnas-Moberg, Kerstin; Ekstrom-Bergstrom, Anette; Handlin, Linda


Work-related stress is relatively common in modern society and is a major cause of sick-leave. Thus, effective stress reducing interventions are needed. This study examined the effects of mental training and mechanical massage, on employee's heart rate variability (HRV) and plasma cortisol at their workplaces. Moreover, it was investigated whether baseline systolic blood pressure (SBP) can explain differences in effectiveness of the intervention. Ninety-three participants from four workplaces were randomly assigned to one of the five programs: (I) Mechanical massage and mental training combined, II) Mechanical massage, III) Mental training, IV) Pause, or V) Control. HRV and plasma cortisol were measured at baseline and after 4 and 8 weeks. SBP was measured at baseline. On the reduction of cortisol levels, a small effect of the mechanical massage program was found, whereas no effect was found for the other programs. None of the programs showed any effect on HRV. Nonetheless, when the level of systolic blood pressure was taken into account, some small beneficial effects on HRV and cortisol of mental training and the mechanical massage were found. This exploratory pilot-study provides useful information for future studies that aim to reduce stress among employees.


stress; mental training; heart rate variability; cortisol; systolic blood pressure; mechanical massage

Published in

Frontiers in Public Health
2020, Volume: 8, article number: 82Publisher: FRONTIERS MEDIA SA