Acute effect of breathing exercises on heart rate variability in type 2 diabetes: a pilot study

J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Aug;20(8):642-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0280. Epub 2014 Jul 1.


Background: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with autonomic nervous system damage resulting in reduced heart rate variability (HRV). Limited evidence suggests yogic breathing exercises may improve indices of HRV.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of two commonly used yogic breathing exercises on HRV in T2D versus an age-matched, normoglycemic (CON) population.

Methods: Twelve (12) subjects with T2D (7 female, 5 male; 54.9±7.4 years) and 14 CON subjects (12 female, 2 male; 54.7±6.8 years) participated in a breathing protocol consisting of two 10-min bouts of randomly assigned uni-nostril breathing (UNB). UNB bouts were preceded and followed by 5-min periods of dual-nostril paced breathing (PB). HRV was measured by standard deviation of normal-to-normal consecutive heartbeats (SDNN), square root of the mean squared differences in successive normal heartbeats (RMSSD), and total spectral power (TP). All data (except instantaneous heart rate) were log transformed to improve normality. Within-group comparisons were analyzed using analysis of variance with repeated measures, whereas between-group comparisons were analyzed using independent-samples t-test.

Results: Between-groups comparisons revealed significant reductions in all measures of HRV at nearly all time points in T2D compared to CON. Within-group comparison demonstrated no significant effect of UNB or PB on HRV in CON. In the T2D group, however, left UNB significantly reduced mean HR (-1.2 bpm, p<0.05) as well as TP (p<0.05).

Conclusions: In summary, neither UNB nor PB had an impact upon HRV in a healthy older population and had a minimal impact in T2D.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breathing Exercises*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects