“Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley
Stress takes a toll on the physiology. This is particularly so in aging. Stress accelerates cellular aging, amplifying the breakdown of cells that occurs with age. It can accelerate sensory losses with aging, including vision and hearing loss. Stress weakens the immune system, making the elderly more susceptible to infections and disease. It even contributes the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, people under stress tend to try to deal with it in unhealthy ways, including drugs and alcohol, poor diet, and lack of exercise. The sum of all of these negative consequences of chronic stress shows up in a reduction of longevity. So, stress can make the aging age faster, reduce quality of life, and make the golden years not so golden.
It is known that exercise can help relieve stress and its effects. But, the aging body cannot generally tolerate vigorous exercise. But, the gentle mindful movement exercise practices of Tai Chi or Qigong are well tolerated by the elderly and appear to be very beneficial for health (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/aging-healthily-sleeping-better-with-mindful-movement-practice/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/06/age-healthily-treating-insomnia-and-inflammation/). In addition, Tai Chi or Qigong develop mindfulness and mindfulness practices are known to improve health and well-being in aging (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/age-healthily-mindfulness/) and reduce stress (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/29/get-your-calm-on/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/destress-with-mindfulness/).
So, it would seem likely that mindful movement practice such as Qigong would serve both as an exercise and a mindfulness practice and improve the aging process. In today’s Research News article “Qi-gong training reduces basal and stress-elicited cortisol secretion in healthy older adults.”
Ponzio and colleagues test this idea. They engaged older adults in generally poor health in a 12-week Qigong training. They measured activity of the stress hormone, cortisol and found that cortisol levels were lower at rest suggesting that they were less stressed after training. In addition, they found that when the participants were put under stress they had lower cortisol responses to the stress, suggesting that they responded to stress better. Finally, those who responded to the stress showed lower perceived stress than they expressed before the training.
These results suggest that Qigong can reduce stress and reactivity to stress in aging individuals. This is important as Qigong is gentle and well tolerated by the elderly. This ancient Chinese discipline appears to be an antidote to stress in aging and should produce health benefits as a consequence.
So, practice Qigong and soothe stress responses and age healthily.
“He who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden.” – Plato
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies