Getting new certifications is always a great way to leverage downtime into new revenue sources, and one area to consider seriously is massage therapy.

In early August 2002, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) asked 511 American men and 510 American women about their experiences with and thoughts on massage therapy. Their responses suggest that you may want to get a piece of this pie.

Whereas, in 1997, only 17 percent of those surveyed had received a massage from a massage therapist in the previous 5 years, 18 percent had received a massage just between August 2001 and August 2002 and a quarter of the respondents expected to get one in the next 12 months. Moreover, of the 28 percent of respondents who had received a massage since 1997, only 23 percent used it for the commonly cited reason of relaxation and stress reduction; 53 percent of them used it for other health reasons. Nonetheless, 28 percent of the respondents said that gloomy economic conditions and the specter of terrorism were sources of tremendous stress, and 57 percent of those adults said that they would consider massage therapy to ease that stress.

The popularity of massage therapy grew most among older Americans. Between 1997 and 2002, the percentage of Americans 65 and older who had received a massage in the previous 5 years skyrocketed from 8 percent to 21 percent. In fact, 19 percent of senior respondents were directed to massage therapy by their physicians for health reasons other than stress relief.

“Survey results this year indicate a significant shift in seniors’ understanding of massage therapy. This realization is incredibly important, considering seniors often have the greatest health needs,” said AMTA president Brenda Griffith. “It’s even more encouraging that their physicians are affirming the health benefits of massage and are recommending massage therapy to their patients.”

Massage has been shown not only to help relieve stress but also to boost function of the immune system, speed recovery from surgery and some illnesses and lower blood pressure. To learn more about becoming a massage therapist, visit the AMTA Web site at www.amtamassage.org.