Better Parasympathetic Activity by Foot Reflexology in 26 Football Players

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Increased Parasympathetic Activity by Foot Reflexology Massage After Repeated Sprint Test in Collegiate Football Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial


Foot reflexology massage (FRM) has positive effects on cardiovascular and haemodynamic functions. However, information regarding the physiological changes after FRM post exercise-stress is limited. This study investigated the acute effects of FRM on heart rate variability (HRV) after the repeated sprint ability (RSA) test and the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test Level 1 (YY).

Twenty-six collegiate male football players were randomly assigned to the FRM group (n = 14) or to the control group (n = 12). Electrocardiographic (ECG) signals were recorded for 15 min in supine position before and after the intervention/control period in the RSA test and the YY test.

In comparison to the control group, the FRM group demonstrated higher values of root mean squared successive difference in the RR interval (RMSSD; p = 0.046, ES = 0.76) and in the proportion of differences of adjacent RR intervals >50 ms (pNN50; p = 0.031, ES = 0.87); and higher percent changes in mean RR interval (%MeanRR; p = 0.040, ES = 0.99),

standard deviation of RR intervals (%SDNN; p = 0.008, ES = 1.10), normalised high-frequency power (%nHFP; p = 0.008, ES = 0.77), total power (%TP; p = 0.009, ES = 0.84) and standard deviation 1 and 2 (%SD1; p = 0.008, ES = 1.08, %SD2; p = 0.020, ES = 1.04) after the RSA test.

The magnitude effect of post-exercise HRV was small after the FRM RSA protocol (ES = 0.32-0.57). Conversely, the results demonstrated a moderate and large magnitude effect of HRV in the RSA and YY protocols of the control group (ES: RSA = 1.07-2.00; YY = 0.81-1.61) and in the YY protocol of the FRM group (ES = 0.99-1.59). The FRM intervention resulted in beneficial effects on the cardiac parasympathetic reactivity and the sympatho-vagal balance after RSA performance.


Parasympathetic activity and sympatho-vagal balance after repeated sprint performance can be immediately increased by a FRM intervention in collegiate football players. The acute benefits of FRM on cardiac parasympathetic activity and sympatho-vagal balance can be considered as an exercise recovery strategy in sports.

Keywords: foot reflexology massage; intermittent exercise; parasympathetic activity; vagal tone. Increased Parasympathetic Activity by Foot Reflexology Massage After Repeated Sprint Test in Collegiate Football Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial


Chen YS, Lu WA, Clemente FM, Bezerra JP, Kuo CD. Increased Parasympathetic Activity by Foot Reflexology Massage after Repeated Sprint Test in Collegiate Football Players: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Sports (Basel). 2019;7(11):228. Published 2019 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/sports7110228

Actionable Information for Reflexologists

In this section you will find how this research paper enacted reflexology to produce these results. We at Reflexology.Report distilled the Methodology portion of this research paper and we are presenting you with:

  • General methods used
  • Organization and duration of sessions
  • Reflexology points

The purpose of this section is to make this research paper useful to all reflexologists. This is a tool developed by the Center of Reflexology and Research (Κέντρο Ρεφλεξολογίας και Έρευνας) in Greece and supervised volunteers from across the world.

The Foot Reflexology Massage was performed first on the non-dominant foot and then on the dominant foot while the participants were lying on a massage table. The FRM was directed to the reflex zones and included the area of the toes, sole, heel, ankle and calf muscles. Massage oil was applied to the skin during the FRM.

The FRM technique processes consisted of three parts: (1) Preparation phase (2 min): skin clean, hot pack, rub and knead; (2) operational Phase (12 min): clamping by index finger and thumb finger, push by finger pulp and slip by index finger joint (basis phalanges); and (3) integrative phase (1 m in): buckle, traction, clean.

H Ρεφλεξολογία πέλματος ασκήθηκε πρώτα στο μη κυρίαρχο πόδι και μετά στο κυρίαρχο ενώ οι συμμετέχοντες βρισκόταν σε ένα κρεβάτι μάλαξης. Η Ρεφλεξολογία ασκήθηκε στις αντανακλαστικές ζώνες και περιλάμβανε την περιοχή των δαχτύλων, του πέλματος, της πτέρνας, του αστραγάλου και των γαμπών. Χρησιμοποιήθηκε λάδι μάλαξης.

Η εφαρμογή της Ρεφλεξολογίας αποτελούνταν από τρία μέρη: (1) Φάση προετοιμασίας (2 λεπτά): καθαρό δέρμα, κομπρέσα θερμή, τρίψιμο και ζύμωση (2) Φάση ενεργητικής μάλαξης (12 λεπτά): με το δείκτη και τον αντίχειρα πίεση στη βάση των φαλαγγών και (3)  Τελική φάση (1 λεπτό): θωπείες, τριβή και καθαρισμός των ποδιών.

Full PDF of the research paper.

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