Research Update

February 24, 2021 by

Heart Rate Variability Is Enhanced by Mindfulness Practice

This study evaluated the effect of a 10-day mindfulness intervention using the Headspace app on heart rate variability (HRV), mindfulness and perceived stress. HRV is a measure of beat-to-beat variability in heart rate that is mediated by the autonomic nervous system.  HRV decreases with stress and increases with relaxation.  The investigators randomly assigned 90 participants who had never practiced meditation to one of three groups: a mindfulness group that used the Headspace app; an active control group that listened to music; and a control group with no activities assigned.  The mindfulness and music groups listened to the programs for an average of 23 minutes a day. HRV was assessed before, during and after the 10 days.  HRV increased significantly during both meditation practice and listening to music, but only remained elevated after the 10-day intervention period in the mindfulness group.  This change in HRV was significantly associated with the amount of time spent using the mindfulness app.  Perceived stress decreased and mindfulness increased only in the mindfulness group.  The authors concluded that brief online-based mindfulness interventions can exert a positive impact on heart rate variability.

Kirk U, Axelsen JL. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0243488. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0243488

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