Yoga Reduces Anxiety Levels for 12 Hours in Doctor of Physical Therapy Students
Research Report Purpose/Hypothesis: Emerging research indicates that students in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs have elevated levels of anxiety.1 High anxiety levels negatively impact academic learning;2 impair clinical performance;2 and, if sustained, have negative consequences for long-term health and well-being.3,4 Research indicates that a single yoga class can immediately decrease anxiety levels in university students,5 but it is not known how long these anxiolytic benefits last. Therefore the purpose of this pilot study was to examine the effects of yoga on anxiety levels in DPT students over the course of 24 hours. Number of Subjects: Part I = 63, Part II = 13 DPT Students Materials and Methods: In part I of the study, participants completed a survey that included questions on demographics and triggers and alleviators of anxiety during graduate school. In part II of the study, researchers employed a repeated-measures study design, using a single yoga class and a quiet-study session. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-S) was used to measure anxiety before and at several intervals in the 24 hours following each intervention. Results: In part I of the study, the mean anxiety level on the STAI-S was 42 (n = 63), indicating a clinically significant anxiety level. 84% of students reported that anxiety has negatively impacted their ability to perform academically. Students most commonly reported using the coping strategies of exercise; meditation / breathe work; and seeking social support. In part II of the study, a statistically and clinically significant reduction in anxiety was found for up to 12 hours following a single yoga class (n = 13). The intervention of quiet study did not significantly reduce anxiety. Conclusions: This study confirms that DPT students have significantly elevated levels of anxiety, adding to a growing body of literature identifying this as a concerning issue. This study also found that a single one hour yoga session significantly reduced anxiety in DPT students for up to 12 hours. Further research is warranted to guide the implementation of stress management strategies into DPT curricula. Clinical Relevance: DPT students have been shown to have elevated anxiety levels. This can lead to maladaptive coping strategies that may precede burnout, before even entering the field as a licensed professional. Clinicians who are not experiencing burnout are likely to be better equipped to provide high quality care to patients. If physical therapy students can learn to effectively manage their personal stress and anxiety levels when they are in school, it is more likely that when they are clinicians, they will be able to help their patients do the same.6 As such, assisting students in the development of effective coping strategies for anxiety, such as through the practice of yoga, could greatly benefit both academic and professional success in the physical therapy profession.