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Stress. 2015;18(5):538-44. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2015.1053454. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

The effect of progressive muscle relaxation on daily cortisol secretion.

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a Department of Psychology , University of Balearic Islands , Palma de Mallorca , Spain .
b Calle Ticia, Palma de Mallorca , Spain .
c Department of Psychology , University of Westminster , London , UK .
d Department of Nursing and Physiotherapy , University of Balearic Islands , Palma de Mallorca , Spain .
e Hospital Universitari Son Espases, Anàlisis Clíniques , Palma de Mallorca , Spain , and.
f Research Institute of Health Sciences (IUNICS), University of Balearic Islands , Palma de Mallorca , Spain.


Abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation (APMR) is a much used stress-management technique. Its efficacy relevant to placebo control is already established in the literature and the primary aim of the present study was to ascertain whether its proven impact on psychological stress measures is matched by a decrease in prevailing levels of the stress-associated hormone cortisol, using accurate and robust measurement based on multiple sampling of full diurnal cortisol secretion profiles. First-year university students can face significant stress in adjustment to academic demands and immersion in a novel social network and provided a convenient study population. One hundred and one first-year students completed APMR with prevailing stress levels assessed a week before and after intervention. Both cortisol and self-report measures were significantly reduced post-intervention by 8% and 10%, respectively. The efficacy of the intervention was independent of, and not modulated by neuroticism, gender, age and smoking status. We also demonstrated that cortisol reduction was unlikely to have been a consequence of adaptation to any initial cortisol elevation prompted by the challenge of the demanding saliva collection protocol. We conclude that the efficacy of APMR in this population extends to reduction in biologically expressed stress levels as well as levels based solely on self-report.


Abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation; area under the curve; neuroticism; perceived stress; personality; salivary cortisol; stress

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