Physical and mental health is a prevailing research topic as adults balance the demands of daily life. One strategy to maintain wellbeing is to adhere to a physical activity routine. Countless studies have demonstrated that regular exercise increases fitness and decreases depression. Therefore, recent investigations focus on protocols to easily measure the effectiveness of specific programs to maximize benefits. Heart rate variability (HRV) is an example of a noninvasive variable that provides insight about cardiovascular health and recovery. Stretching and meditation are two practices that past research has demonstrated increase HRV.
PURPOSE: To evaluate if a fusion of stretching and meditation improves heart rate variability, positive feelings, and quality sleep in active adults. Our hypothesis is that performing a sequence of stretches (20-30 minutes) with subsequent meditation (10 minutes) three nights per week will enhance recovery (higher HRV) in addition to induce positive feelings and quality sleep.
METHODS: Sixty-six adults between 24-67 years who regularly exercised at least five hours per week, without stretching or meditation, collected their morning heart rate and exercise heart rate with a chest transmitter for two weeks. Next, we assigned (age and activity matched) half the participants to an experimental stretching and meditation protocol three nights per week. Both groups continued the heart rate collection for another two weeks. Each participant also completed a weekly survey with questions addressing their satisfaction with life, physical as well as mental feelings, and quality of sleep.
RESULTS: In the experimental group, heart rate variability, positive feelings (confidence, motivation), and quality sleep were significantly greater during the second two weeks while resting heart rate and negative feelings (sadness, anxiety) were significantly less (all comparisons p < 0.02). To contrast, in the control group, there were no significant differences between the measurement weeks.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that 30-40 minutes of stretching and meditation three nights per week can be an effective routine to enhance both physical and mental health in active adults.