Sligo Physio Space Physiotherapist Claire Mc Guinness recently completed her Sports Physiotherapy Masters. For this She was required to carry out research and write up a thesis. Below is a summary of the findings from her thesis.
A comparison of yoga and meditation for improving mindfulness and well-being and reducing perceived stress, perceived stress reactivity and COVID-19 related anxiety in athletes
Prolonged stress negatively impacts physiological homeostasis which adversely affects an individual’s well-being (Chrousos, 2009).
Athletes balancing work and study experience significant stress and this can impact their well-being, performance and injury risk (Kelly et al. 2018).
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to help athletes reduce stress and improve well-being (Petterson, 2017).
Yoga has been proven to increase mindfulness and reduce stress (Carmody and Baer, 2008), however, it has not been studied extensively in an athletic population.
To compare the effects of 5-weeks of mindful meditation to 5-weeks of mindful yoga on levels of mindfulness, COVID-19 related anxiety, perceived stress, perceived stress reactivity and well-being.
24 (17 male and 7 female) voluntary athletes, mean age (31.25 +/-92) were recruited.
Participants completed validated self-reported questionnaires on mindfulness, COVID-19 related anxiety, perceived stress, perceived stress reactivity and well-being before and after the intervention and the results were analysed for effect,
The meditation intervention was 5-weeks of 45 minutes of mindful meditation by Kabat-Zinn, sent in an audio file weekly.
The yoga intervention was 5-weeks of 45 minutes of mindful yoga taught by the author and sent in a video file weekly.
There was a statistically significant improvement in mindfulness following the interventions in both groups, with a slight but statistically significantly higher increase in the meditation group.
There was a statistically significant reduction in COVID-19 related anxiety in the meditation group only, with no significant effect observed with the yoga intervention.
There was a statistically significant reduction in perceived stress and perceived stress reactivity in both groups, with no statistical difference between the groups.
There was a statistically significant improvement in well-being in both groups, with no statistical difference between the groups.
There was high compliance in both groups, especially with the yoga group.
This study confirms the findings of other research which has shown the positive effects of meditation on stress and well-being in athletes (Goodman et al 2014; Aherne et al. 2011).
This study is novel in proving yoga with athletes can improve mindfulness, and well-being and reduce perceived stress and perceived stress reactivity.
It highlights meditation as a useful tool in managing COVID-19 related anxiety in athletes.
Mindfulness techniques are beneficial for use with athletes, given the results and high compliance rates seen in this study.
Further research is needed to prove whether meditation is more effective at improving mindfulness than yoga.
Fellow researchers can easily replicate a yoga intervention to increase mindfulness in athletes for future studies.
Further research should include physiological measurements of stress and examine the correlation of reduced stress to improved performance and reduced injury risk.
Sports coaches and psychologists interested in improving well-being and reducing stress should incorporate mindfulness practices such as yoga or meditation.