Brief periods of yoga or meditation in the workplace helped reduce stress among office workers, researchers reported in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2012; doi: 10.1155/2012/501986).

The combination of stress and a sedentary job increases the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders—and between the demands of work and family life, many office workers don’t find time for stress management practices.

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, conducted a study to observe whether yoga postures and guided meditation performed while seated at an office workstation would affect the mental and physical signs of stress. The scientists believed that both practices would elicit a relaxation response when compared with continuing with office work as usual.

Participants were 20 adults with no uncontrolled illness. All subjects took part in each of the three interventions: yoga, meditation and the control condition (continuing with work as usual). Each 15-minute intervention was separated by at least 1 day. Assessments of stress markers were taken at baseline, during the 15-minute intervention and 15 minutes after the intervention. Measures included perceived stress, blood pressure, respiration rate, heart rate and heart rate variability.

Data analysis showed that both yoga and guided meditation reduced perceived stress (the mental aspect), and this effect continued through the postintervention period. The yoga intervention reduced more physical markers of stress than guided meditation; however, both practices lowered respiration rates. While improvements in mental stress persisted through the 15-minute postintervention period, markers of physical stress tended to return to baseline levels, except for respiratory rates following chair yoga.

Study author Birinder S. Cheema, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher at the University of Western Sydney, said, “Our findings highlight the benefits of brief yoga and meditation practice in the office workplace. We believe that these practices should be used, particularly by those employed in sedentary occupations, to counteract the damaging effects of stress on cardiovascular and metabolic health. Future studies should investigate the long-term effect of worksite-based yoga and/or meditation practice on employee health, absenteeism, job performance and job satisfaction, particularly in those suffering from high levels of work-related stress.”

More research was recommended.