Long-term mindfulness training is associated with reliable differences in resting respiration rate

Article English OPEN
Wielgosz, Joseph ; Schuyler, Brianna S. ; Lutz, Antoine ; Davidson, Richard J. (2016)
  • Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
  • Journal: Scientific Reports, volume 6 (issn: 2045-2322, eissn: 2045-2322)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1038/srep27533, pmc: PMC4895172
  • Subject: Article

Respiration rate is known to correlate with aspects of psychological well-being, and attention to respiration is a central component of mindfulness meditation training. Both traditional contemplative systems and recent empirical evidence support an association between formal mindfulness practice and decreased respiration rate. However, the question of whether long-term mindfulness training is associated with stable, generalized changes in respiration has yet to be directly investigated. We analyzed respiration patterns across multiple time points, separated by two months or more, in a group of long-term mindfulness meditation practitioners (LTMs, n = 31) and a matched group of non-meditators (Controls, n = 38). On average, LTMs showed slower baseline respiration rate (RR) than Controls. Among LTMs, greater practice experience was associated with slower RR, independently of age and gender. Furthermore, this association was specific to intensive retreat practice, and was not seen for routine daily practice. Full days of meditation practice did not produce detectable changes in baseline RR, suggesting distal rather than immediate effects. All effects were independent of physiological characteristics including height, weight, body-mass index and waist-hip ratio. We discuss implications for continued study of the long-term effects of mindfulness training on health and well-being.
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