Influence of Respiratory Frequency of Slow-Paced Breathing on Vagally-Mediated Heart Rate Variability

Author: Min You1,2, Sylvain Laborde3,4, Stefan Ackermann3, Uirassu Borges5, Fabrice Dosseville4,6, Emma Mosley7
1 School of Teacher Education, University of Weifang, Weifang, China.
2 UFR Psychologie, UR 3918 CERREV, Université de Caen Normandie, Caen, 14032, France.
3 Department of Performance Psychology, Institute of Psychology, German Sport University, Cologne, Germany.
4 UFR STAPS, UR 7480 VERTEX, Université de Caen Normandie, Caen, 14032, France.
5 Department of Health & Social Psychology, Institute of Psychology, German Sport University, Cologne, Germany.
6 CNDAPS, Colombelles, F-14460, France.
7 Department of Rehabilitation and Sport Sciences, School of Sport, Bournemouth University, Fern Barrow, Poole, Dorset, BH12 5BB, UK.
Conference/Journal: Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback
Date published: 2023 Dec 8
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s10484-023-09605-2. , Word Count: 250

Breathing techniques, particularly slow-paced breathing (SPB), have gained popularity among athletes due to their potential to enhance performance by increasing cardiac vagal activity (CVA), which in turn can help manage stress and regulate emotions. However, it is still unclear whether the frequency of SPB affects its effectiveness in increasing CVA. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the effects of a brief SPB intervention (i.e., 5 min) on CVA using heart rate variability (HRV) measurement as an index. A total of 75 athletes (22 female; Mage = 22.32; age range = 19-31) participated in the study, attending one lab session where they performed six breathing exercises, including SPB at different frequencies (5 cycles per minute (cpm), 5.5 cpm, 6 cpm, 6.5 cpm, 7 cpm), and a control condition of spontaneous breathing. The study found that CVA was significantly higher in all SPB conditions compared to the control condition, as indexed by both root mean square of the successive differences (RMSSD) and low-frequency HRV (LF-HRVms2). Interestingly, LF-HRVms2 was more sensitive in differentiating the respiratory frequencies than RMSSD. These results suggest that SPB at a range of 5 cpm to 7 cpm can be an effective method to increase CVA and potentially improve stress management and emotion regulation in athletes. This short SPB exercise can be a simple yet useful tool for athletes to use during competitive scenarios and short breaks in competitions. Overall, these findings highlight the potential benefits of incorporating SPB into athletes' training and competition routines.

Keywords: Cardiac coherence; Deep breathing; Heart rate variability; RMSSD; Respiration.

PMID: 38063977 DOI: 10.1007/s10484-023-09605-2