Becky Ham, Science Writer: Twenty minutes of daily meditation helped middle schoolers lower their blood pressure and heart rate, a new study from the state of Georgia concludes.
Students who used a simple concentration-based breathing meditation technique significantly reduced their resting and “active” blood pressure, according to Frank A. Treiber, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Medical College of Georgia. Their findings appear in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
The amount of reduction in blood pressure, if maintained over time, “would translate into an approximate 12.5 percent lower predicted risk of stroke or coronary mortality in adulthood,” Treiber says.
Treiber and colleagues say the incidence of high blood pressure “has risen dramatically in recent years among youth,” including a nearly sevenfold increase in high blood pressure among some minority youth.
The study included 73 Augusta, Ga. middle school students who were randomly assigned to participate in the meditation task or a regular health education class. All of the students in the study had normal blood pressure and all wore monitors during the study to gauge their blood pressure and heart rate throughout the day.
Students in the meditation group participated in two 10-minute meditation sessions each day, once in class and once after school, for three months. More than 85 percent of the students attended the school sessions and said they completed the after-class meditation.
The researchers believe meditation may reduce the body’s responses to stress, which would be beneficial for blood pressure and heart rate.
“To date, few studies have evaluated stress reduction interventions on blood pressure in pre-hypertensive youth but findings have been encouraging,” Treiber says.
Treiber and colleagues say more research is needed to see if the positive effects of meditation have a lasting impact on health.
“The breathing meditation technique is easily learned and practiced at virtually no cost,” Treiber says.
Another recent study, Treiber notes, suggests meditation can help reduce behavior problems in the classroom.
“Thus, implementation of such programs in the school setting is not only feasible but may also be desirable because of their impact on school-related conduct as well as possible impact on future health,” he says.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.