Meditation has become popular thanks to its association with positive wellbeing, but a new study reckons the practice may also be good for the heart.
Researchers at Michigan Technological University have recruited 14 participants to examine the effects of mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce anxiety.
After a 60-minute session, all of those involved showed lower resting heart rates and a reduction in aortic pulsatile load - the change in blood pressure between diastole and systole per heartbeat multiplied by heart rate.
In addition to these cardiovascular benefits, the group also reported that their anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels up to a week after engaging with the technique.
One participant in the study even claimed that they hadn't felt so relaxed in an entire decade.
The study was designed by recent graduate Hanna Marti, who structured the meditation session to include a 30-minute body scan in which the participant is asked to focus intensely on one part of the body at a time, beginning with the toes.
"The point of a body scan is that if you can focus on one single part of your body, just your big toe, it can make it much easier for you to deal with something stressful in your life. You can learn to focus on one part of it rather than stressing about everything else in your life," she explained.
While previous studies have found that repeating meditation sessions over the course of several weeks will reduce anxiety, they wanted to fully understand the benefits of a single session.
Having concluded that even a mere 60 minutes can have significant mental and physical health benefits, the researchers are now looking to improve how anti-anxiety therapies and interventions are designed.
"Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk," said co-author John Durocher.