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Work at relaxing

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January 15, 2007|Janet Cromley | Times Staff Writer

IF you're reeling from job stress, take heart. A new study has found that weekly one-hour stress-management sessions at lunchtime can promote cardiovascular health and maybe help stop that eye from twitching.

In a study of 91 office workers who faced layoffs, researchers at the University of Milan in Italy found that those who received simple respiration, muscle relaxation, guided imagery and cognitive exercises showed a small but significant improvement in heart rate variability and blood pressure. The yearlong program also reduced the workers' perceived stress. Workers who received occasional articles and monthly e-mails did not experience a similar reduction in stress.

The degree of stress reduction and persistence of the effects outside of the sessions are intriguing, says Dr. Massimo Pagani, the study's senior author and professor of medicine at the University of Milan. You would expect substantial changes, he says, "but it was something of a surprise that the results lasted."

"This type of training could easily be incorporated into regular outplacement services for displaced workers," says Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and spokesman for the American Heart Assn.

The study, released online Jan. 8, will appear in the February issue of Hypertension.

janet.cromley@latimes.com

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