Yoga and other relaxation techniques can help reduce work-related stress, according to a new study published by Wiley. The researchers analyzed the results of 15 clinical trials involving a total of 688 healthcare workers.
“Work-related stress is a major occupational health problem that is associated with adverse effects on physical and mental health. Healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable in the era of COVID-19. Physical methods of stress relief such as yoga and massage therapy may reduce occupational stress,” wrote the study authors.
“The objective of this systematic review and network meta-analysis is to determine the effects of yoga, massage therapy, progressive muscle relaxation, and stretching on alleviating stress and improving physical and mental health in healthcare workers.”
Overall, each of the physical relaxation techniques was found to reduce specific measures of occupational stress, with yoga and massage therapy proving to be the most effective.
“Work-related stress has been linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and other serious causes of morbidity. Our results suggest that physical relaxation methods are helpful in reducing occupational stress,” said study lead author Dr. Michael Zhang.
“Yoga is particularly effective and can be delivered virtually, making it convenient for employers to offer distance options to promote worker health.”
The researchers noted that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has seen healthcare workers across the world brought under immense physical and emotion strain. “From the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, surging case numbers placed increased demands on hospital staff and spawned a multitude of new challenges,” wrote the study authors.
“Fear of infection, lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), concerns for the health and safety of family and friends, limited training and experience against an emerging disease, and ever-changing care protocols are several of the many sources of stress faced by frontline healthcare workers.”
The meta-analysis confirms the overall effectiveness of physical methods of relaxation, and suggests that yoga and related exercises are particularly beneficial. According to the researchers, their findings can also be applied to other professions and to the general population.
The study is published in the Journal of Occupational Health.