Blood pressure (BP) is an important ACSM risk factor when assessing cardiovascular health. Yoga practice addresses both movement related benefits for BP and also benefits related to an activation of the parasympathetic nervous system through the use of breath and meditation. Meditative relaxation emphasizes parasympathetic nervous system activation but does not include the movement component.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of yoga and meditative relaxation on BP among college students.
METHODS: Sixty-seven men and women with an average age of 19.88 (±1.75) years participated. Participants were enrolled in a 13-week yoga (n = 35), meditative relaxation (n = 18), or a control group course (n = 14). BP was measured at the beginning and end of the 13-week semester. Participants were grouped based on hypertension classification. The ACSM hypertension guidelines were used to place participants in either a high or low hypertension group. A two-way ANOVA analysis (p < .05) was used to determine group differences by hypertension class on change in systolic and diastolic BP.
RESULTS: Forty-four participants were placed in the low hypertension group (systolic below 140mmHg and diastolic below 90mmHg) and 23 participants were placed in the high hypertension group (systolic at or above 140 mmHg and/or diastolic at or above 90mmHg). Among the participants in the high hypertension group, independent sample t-test showed a significant drop in both systolic, t(65) = 4.62, p = .00, and diastolic, t(65) = 2.78, p = .00, BP across both exercise groups and the control group. Furthermore, a significant interaction between hypertension class and group was found for diastolic BP, F (2, 2,537) = 3.59, p = .034 but not for systolic BP. When the data was analyzed separately by hypertension class, a one-way ANOVA no longer showed significant group differences among either hypertension class.
CONCLUSION: Among this sample, high hypertensive participants significantly decreased both systolic and diastolic BP by the end of a 13-week academic semester. However, there was no significant difference in BP change between yoga, meditative relaxation, and the control group. Continued research is needed to uncover potential benefits for students engaging in movement and meditation courses over the course of an academic semester.