Neurological Sciences

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 451–458 | Cite as

The role of deep breathing on stress

  • Valentina Perciavalle
  • Marta Blandini
  • Paola Fecarotta
  • Andrea Buscemi
  • Donatella Di Corrado
  • Luana Bertolo
  • Fulvia Fichera
  • Marinella CocoEmail author
Original Article


The objective of this study was to verify, in a sample of university students, whether a relaxing technique called deep breathing (stress Intervention Functional IFA) is capable to improve the mood and to reduce the levels of stress. Thirty-eight adult healthy subjects (aged between 18 and 28 years) volunteered the study. They were randomly divided in two groups, the Experimental Group (N = 19) and the Control Group (N = 19). The subjects of the Experimental Group were submitted, once per week, to 10 treatment’s sessions of Anti-stress Protocol, each lasting 90 min, whereas subjects of the Control Group sat ten times for 90 min, once per week, without practicing any treatment. The psychological state of mood and stress was evaluated using Measurement of Psychological Stress (MSP) and Profile of Mood State (POMS), while the biological profile of the stress was detected by measuring the heart rate and the salivary cortisol. The results obtained from the present research support the possibility that deep breathing technique is capable to induce an effective improvement in mood and stress both in terms of self-reported evaluations (MPS and POMS) and of objective parameters, such as heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. No statistically significant difference was found between men and women.


Deep breathing Stress Cortisol Emotion 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of the paper.


  1. 1.
    Muscatell KA, Eisenberger NI (2012) A social neuroscience perspective on stress and health. Soc Pers Psychol Compass 6(12):890–904CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cooper CL, Dewe PJ, O’Driscoll MP (2001) Organizational stress. A review and critique of theory, research, and applications. SAGE publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dweck CS (1990) Self-theories: their role in motivation, personality and development. Nebr Symp Motiv 38:199–235PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ford IW, Eklund RC, Gordon S (2000) An examination of psychosocial variables moderating the relationship between life stress and injury time-loss among athletes of a high standard. J Sports Sci 18(5):301–312CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hayama Y, Inoue T (2012) The effects of deep breathing on ‘tensione–anxiety’ and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy. Complement Ther Clin Pract 18:94–98. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2011.10.001 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Vining RF, McGinley RA, Maksvytis JJ, Ho KY (1983) Salivary cortisol: a better measure of adrenal cortical function than serum cortisol. Ann Clin Biochem 20(Pt 6):329–335CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    McNair DM, Lorr M, Droppleman LM (1971) Manual for the profile of mood states (POMS). Educational and Industrial Testing Service, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Tessier R, Lemure L, Fillion L (1990) Mesure du Stress Psychologique MSP. The Aviora, Brosard-QuébecGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Di Nuovo S, Rispoli L (2000) Misurare lo stress. Linea test. Editore Franco Angeli. ISBN: 9788846422521Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Berntson GG, Cacioppo JT (2007) Heart rate variability: stress and psychiatric conditions. In Malik M and Camm AJ (Eds) Dynamic electrocardiography, Chapter 7. doi:  10.1002/9780470987483.ch7
  11. 11.
    Di Corrado D, Agostini T, Bonifazi M, Perciavalle V (2104) Changes in mood states and salivary cortisol levels following two months of training in elite female water polo players. Mol Med Rep 9(6):2441–2446. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2014.2115 Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Rispoli L (2011) Manuale delle tecniche Funzionali. Edizioni S.E.F, NapoliGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Blandini M, Fecarotta P, Buscemi B, Ramaci T, Buscemi A (2015) An anti-stress protocol based on the psychological functional model. Internat J Edu Res 3:459–468Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Curran-Everett D, Benos DJ (2004) Guidelines for reporting statistics in journals published by the American Physiological Society. Am J Physiol 97:457–459Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cowen VS, Adams TB (2005) Physical and perceptual benefits of yoga asana practice: results of a pilot study. J Bodywork Mov Ther 9:211–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Manjunath N, Telles S (1999) Factors influencing changes in tweezer dexterity scores following yoga training. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 43(2):225–229PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Murugesan R, Govindarajulu N, Bera T (2000) Effect of selected yogic practices on the management of hypertension. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 44(2):207–210PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Telles S, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR, Desiraju T (1993) Physiological changes in sports teachers following 3 months of training in yoga. Indian J Med Sci 47(10):235–240PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Raju PS, Prased KV, Venkata RY, Murthy KJ, Reddy MV (1997) Influence of intensive yoga training on physiological changes in 6 adult women: a case report. J Altern Complement Med 3(3):291–295CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Birkel DA, Edgren L (2000) Hatha yoga: improved vital capacity of college students. Altern Ther Health Med 6(6):55–63PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Malathi A, Damodaran A (1999) Stress due to exams in medical students—role of yoga. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 43(2):218–224PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Berger BG, Owen DR (1988) Stress reduction and mood enhancement in four exercise modes: swimming, body conditioning, Hatha yoga, and fencing. Res Quart Exer Sport 59(2):148–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Netz Y, Lidor R (2003) Mood alterations in mindful versus aerobic exercise modes. J Psychol 137(5):405–419CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Paul G, Elam B, Verhulst SJ (2007) A longitudinal study of students’ perceptions of using deep breathing meditation to reduce testing stresses. Teach Learn Med 19(3):287–292CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Abdullah MA, Van der Molen HT, Alauja AH, De Boer BJ (2014) Stress management in dental students: a systematic review. Adv Med Educ Pract 5:176. doi: 10.2147/AMEP.S46211 Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kubera B, Hubold C, Otte S, Lindenberg AS, Zeiss I, Krause R, Steinkamp M, Klement J, Entringer S, Pellerin L, Peters A (2012) Rise in plasma lactate concentrations with psychosocial stress: a possible sign of cerebral energy demand. Obes Facts 5(3):384–392. doi: 10.1159/000339958 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Coco M, Alagona G, Rapisarda G, Costanzo E, Calogero RA, Perciavalle V, Perciavalle V (2009) Elevated blood lactate is associated with increased motor cortex excitability. Somatosens Motor Res 27(1):1–8. doi: 10.3109/08990220.2010.507102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Coco M, Alagona G, Va Perciavalle, Cicirata V, Perciavalle V (2011) Spinal cord excitability is not influenced by elevated blood lactate levels. Somatosens Motor Res 28(1–2):19–24. doi: 10.3109/08990220.2011.598268 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Coco M, Perciavalle V, Cavallari P, Va Perciavalle (2016) Effects of an exhaustive exercise on motor skill learning and on the excitability of primary motor cortex and supplementary motor area. Medicine (Baltimore). 95(11):e2978. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000002978 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Va Perciavalle, Coco M, Alagona G, Maci T, Perciavalle V (2010) Gender differences in changes of motor cortex excitability during elevated blood lactate levels. Somatosens Motor Res 27(3):106–110. doi: 10.3109/08990220.2010.507102 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Coco M, Caggia S, Musumeci G, Perciavalle V, Graziano AC, Pannuzzo G, Cardile V (2013) Sodium l-lactate differently affects brain-derived neurothrophic factor, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and heat shock protein 70 kDa production in human astrocytes and SH-SY5Y cultures. J Neurosci Res 91(2):313–320. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23154 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Alagona G, Coco M, Rapisarda G, Costanzo E, Maci T, Restivo D, Maugeri A, Perciavalle V (2009) Changes of blood lactate levels after repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. Neurosci Lett 450(2):111–113. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2008.11.064 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Coco M, Di Corrado D, Calogero RA, Va Perciavalle, Maci T, Perciavalle V (2009) Attentional processes and blood lactate levels. Brain Res 1302:205–211. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.09.032 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Va Perciavalle, Di Corrado D, Scuto C, Perciavalle V, Coco M (2014) Attention and blood lactate levels in equestrians performing show jumping. Percept Mot Skills 118(3):733–745. doi: 10.2466/29.30.PMS.118k22w1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentina Perciavalle
    • 1
  • Marta Blandini
    • 2
  • Paola Fecarotta
    • 3
  • Andrea Buscemi
    • 2
  • Donatella Di Corrado
    • 4
  • Luana Bertolo
    • 2
  • Fulvia Fichera
    • 2
  • Marinella Coco
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Sciences of FormationUniversity of CataniaCataniaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical and Biotechnological SciencesUniversity of CataniaCataniaItaly
  3. 3.Functional Psychotherapy Center of CataniaCataniaItaly
  4. 4.Faculty of Human and Social SciencesUniversity “Kore” of EnnaEnnaItaly

Personalised recommendations