How Do Breathing Exercises Affect Pulse Rate and Blood Pressure

3.5 based on 4 ratings

Updated on Feb 06, 2012

Grade Level: Middle School; Type: Life Science


  • Discover how deep, rhythmic breathing on autonomic nervous system
  • Learn about the anatomy of the autonomic nervous system and its relationship to the rest of the body, especially the relationship of the vagus nerve to the diaphragm.

Research Questions:

  • What are the functions of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems?
  • Why does deep breathing stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system?
  • Why do people feel stress (i.e., stay in a sympathetic nervous system state)?
  • What are the advantages to reducing stress by doing deep breathing?

In this experiment, you'll learn how to take blood pressure and pulse rate. In the process, you'll learn about the anatomy and physiology of the autonomic nervous system, which is what keeps our heart and lungs going.


  • Automatic blood pressure monitor
  • Paper and pen
  • Access to a computer

Experimental Procedure

  1. Have your subject sit comfortably in a chair.
  2. Take his/her wrist pulse rate using the technique described on this website. Record the pulse rate.
  3. Take his/her blood pressure following the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the automatic blood pressure monitor. Record your subjects’ blood pressure.
  4. Have your subject engage in the “relaxing” breathing exercise described by Dr. Andrew Weil on this website.
  5. Take the subject’s wrist pulse and blood pressure again after the breathing exercises and record the date.
  6. Calculate the difference in wrist pulse and blood pressure before and after the deep breathing exercise. Use the same procedure for all subjects.
  7. Run these tests on as many subjects as possible; 30 is optimal.
  8. Calculate the average difference in wrist pulse and blood pressure before and after breathing exercises.
  9. Create a bar graph with using this data. Be sure to label both the bars and the graph itself.
  10. Write a report about the branches of the autonomic nervous system, stress and the positive effects of deep breathing exercises.

Terms/Concepts: Autonomic nervous system; Parasympathetic nervous system; Sympathetic nervous system; Diaphragm; Stress; Deep breathing exercises


  • Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, Control Systems of the Human Body, by Tortora, Gerard J., and Grabowski, Sandra R. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003)

Dr. LaCerra is an evolutionary neuroscientist, author of âThe Origin of Mindsâ (with co-author, Roger Bingham, Harmony, 2002) and a columnist and contributing editor at âSpirituality & Healthâ Magazine.

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