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Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2015 Dec;40(4):257-68. doi: 10.1007/s10484-015-9293-x.

Physical activity, mindfulness meditation, or heart rate variability biofeedback for stress reduction: a randomized controlled trial.

Author information

1
Department of Developmental Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. j.e.vander.zwan@vu.nl.
2
Department of Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam, Van Der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. j.e.vander.zwan@vu.nl.
3
Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
4
Research Priority Area Yield, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
5
Department of Developmental Psychology and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

In contemporary western societies stress is highly prevalent, therefore the need for stress-reducing methods is great. This randomized controlled trial compared the efficacy of self-help physical activity (PA), mindfulness meditation (MM), and heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BF) in reducing stress and its related symptoms. We randomly allocated 126 participants to PA, MM, or HRV-BF upon enrollment, of whom 76 agreed to participate. The interventions consisted of psycho-education and an introduction to the specific intervention techniques and 5 weeks of daily exercises at home. The PA exercises consisted of a vigorous-intensity activity of free choice. The MM exercises consisted of guided mindfulness meditation. The HRV-BF exercises consisted of slow breathing with a heart rate variability biofeedback device. Participants received daily reminders for their exercises and were contacted weekly to monitor their progress. They completed questionnaires prior to, directly after, and 6 weeks after the intervention. Results indicated an overall beneficial effect consisting of reduced stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and improved psychological well-being and sleep quality. No significant between-intervention effect was found, suggesting that PA, MM, and HRV-BF are equally effective in reducing stress and its related symptoms. These self-help interventions provide easily accessible help for people with stress complaints.

KEYWORDS:

Anxiety; Heart rate variability biofeedback; Mindfulness meditation; Physical activity; Stress

PMID:
26111942
PMCID:
PMC4648965
DOI:
10.1007/s10484-015-9293-x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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