Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers

Indian J Med Res. 2004 Aug;120(2):115-21.


Background & objectives: Practice of breathing exercises like pranayama is known to improve autonomic function by changing sympathetic or parasympathetic activity. Therefore, in the present study the effect of breathing exercises on autonomic functions was performed in young volunteers in the age group of 17-19 yr.

Methods: A total of 60 male undergraduate medical students were randomly divided into two groups: slow breathing group (that practiced slow breathing exercise) and the fast breathing group (that practiced fast breathing exercise). The breathing exercises were practiced for a period of three months. Autonomic function tests were performed before and after the practice of breathing exercises.

Results: The increased parasympathetic activity and decreased sympathetic activity were observed in slow breathing group, whereas no significant change in autonomic functions was observed in the fast breathing group.

Interpretation & conclusion: The findings of the present study show that regular practice of slow breathing exercise for three months improves autonomic functions, while practice of fast breathing exercise for the same duration does not affect the autonomic functions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Valsalva Maneuver