Effect of slow- and fast-breathing exercises on autonomic functions in patients with essential hypertension

J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jul;15(7):711-7. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0609.


Objectives: Breathing exercises practiced in various forms of meditations such as yoga may influence autonomic functions. This may be the basis of therapeutic benefit to hypertensive patients.

Design: The study design was a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study using three groups.

Subjects: The subjects comprised 60 male and female patients aged 20-60 years with stage 1 essential hypertension.

Intervention: Patients were randomly and equally divided into the control and other two intervention groups, who were advised to do 3 months of slow-breathing and fast-breathing exercises, respectively. Baseline and postintervention recording of blood pressure (BP), autonomic function tests such as standing-to-lying ratio (S/L ratio), immediate heart rate response to standing (30:15 ratio), Valsalva ratio, heart rate variation with respiration (E/I ratio), hand-grip test, and cold pressor response were done in all subjects.

Results: Slow breathing had a stronger effect than fast breathing. BP decreased longitudinally over a 3-month period with both interventions. S/L ratio, 30:15 ratio, E/I ratio, and BP response in the hand grip and cold pressor test showed significant change only in patients practicing the slow-breathing exercise.

Conclusions: Both types of breathing exercises benefit patients with hypertension. However, improvement in both the sympathetic and parasympathetic reactivity may be the mechanism that is associated in those practicing the slow-breathing exercise.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Respiration
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult