Last updated: Aug 20, 2008
never-sick-massage
For the past three years, Mindy Hardwick, 38, of Lake Stevens, Wash., has dodged all the major bugs while volunteering at schools and a juvenile-detention center. Her secret weapon: a monthly massage. Hardwick even sailed through a move (selling her first house) without the poststress blahs. “Its got to be the massage,” she says. “Im convinced its like taking medicine.”


Most studies show that massage can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate—and lowering these is likely to cause your stress level to drop, one key to building immunity. “Decreasing stress increases your immune cells,” says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute of the Univer­sity of Miami School of Medicine.

Make massage work for you: Any type of rubdown is fine, as long as you ask for moderate pressure, Field says. The therapists touch should be vigorous enough to move or indent skin but not so hard that it causes pain. How often do you need one? Theres no science on that, but experts say once a month (or more) is worthwhile. Check with your insurance provider to see if massage therapy is covered. If cost is an issue, check out massage schools, which sometimes offer discounted services.

You can take matters into your own hands, too, by showering with a stiff, natural-bristle brush; like moderate-pressure massage, this stimulates pressure receptors under the skin, Field says. A brush we like: Earth Therapeutics Far Reaching Back Brush ($7). And couples who massage each other for 10 minutes a few times a week can reap significant benefits, Field adds. Tune up your technique with Gaiams Massage Practice: Acupressure DVD ($10).