MAP Train My Brain: Meditation Combined with Aerobic Exercise Reduces Stress and Rumination while Enhancing Quality of Life in Medical Students

Paul Lavadera, Emma M. Millon, Tracey J. Shors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Medical students must commit a great deal of concentration and energy during their first 2 years of study, leaving minimal time for self-care. However, once they become physicians, they are in the position of instructing their patients to engage in self-care. Objectives: In this study, first-and second-year medical students participated in a combined mental and physical (MAP) training program with meditation and aerobic exercise that targeted brain health. Design: Each weekly session began with 30 min of instructional training that emphasized the benefit of the program for brain and body health, followed by 30 min of silent meditation, and ending with 30 min of aerobic exercise. Participants monitored their heart rate to achieve 60%-80% of their personal maximum. Participants engaged in one additional session of MAP training each week on their own. Location and Subjects: First-and second-year medical students were recruited to be participants from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) in Piscataway, NJ. Outcome measures: Participants completed questionnaires of depressive symptoms, perceived stress, ruminative thoughts, and quality of life, before and after the training approximately 8-9 weeks apart. Results: After 8 weeks of training and in contrast to students who did not participate (n = 30), the medical students who completed at least 14 sessions out of 16 (n = 17) reported significantly fewer ruminations (-17%), including depressive (-16%) and brooding ruminations (-24%). Ruminations are repetitive thoughts that are typically negative in nature and associated with symptoms of depression. The medical students also reported greater quality of life at the end of training and less perceived stress. The majority (84%) would recommend these types of practices and this one in particular to their future patients. Conclusions: Previous studies have demonstrated that MAP training can reduce symptoms of depression as well as trauma-related cognitions, while increasing oxygen consumption and synchronized brain activity during cognitive control procedures. Overall, MAP training offers a time-efficient and evidence-based means of maintaining mental and physical wellness for students during medical school and into their future, as well as their patients alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-423
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Complementary and alternative medicine


  • exercise
  • medicine
  • meditation
  • mental health
  • mindfulness
  • stress


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