Reduce Coronary Heart Disease Risk with Tai Chi

Reduce Coronary Heart Disease Risk with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

tai chi is a promising and safe exercise alternative for patients with coronary heart disease who are unable or unwilling to attend traditional CR, in particular for older people, women, and deconditioned individuals.” – Elena Salmoirago‐Blotcher

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Lifestyle changes have proved to be quite effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. These include quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of other lifestyle changes needed such as smoking cessationweight reduction and stress reduction.

 

Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient mindfulness practices involving slow prescribed movements. They are gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, they can also be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. Since Tai Chi and Qigong are both mindfulness practices and exercises, they are particularly acceptable and effective methods to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Improves Coronary Heart Disease Risk by Inactivating MAPK/ERK Pathway through Serum miR-126.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7199556/) Zhang and colleagues recruited coronary heart disease patients after release from the hospital following percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). They were randomly assigned to either receive 90-minute daily Tai Chi training for 3 months or to receive exercise training of varied exercises calibrated to be equivalent to the Tai Chi practice. They were measured before and after training for body fat, epicardial adipose tissue volume, heart rate, blood pressure, quality of life, and balance performance. In addition, they were also measured for miR-126 and Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-associated molecules in peripheral blood leukocytes.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the exercise control group, the group that received Tai Chi train had significantly lower body weight and body fat, epicardial adipose tissue volume, heart rate, systolic blood pressure, Serum miR-126, and MAPK signaling, and significantly greater balance stability and quality of life.

 

These results are particularly strong because the comparison condition was equivalent non-Tai Chi exercises. So, the results were not due simply to exercise but specifically to the practice of Tai Chi. The results suggest that Tai Chi practice greatly reduces risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease in patients recovering from percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). In addition, since the miR-126 modulates the Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-pathway that is associated with cardiovascular risk, Tai Chi practice also reduces a molecular pathway suggestive of cardiovascular risk.

 

These are impressive results that suggest that Tai Chi practice has substantial benefits for patients at-risk for cardiovascular disease. It improves the patients body composition, cardiovascular function, well-being, and even biochemical pathways associate with risk for coronary heart disease. This combined with the safety, convenience, low expense, and attractiveness of Tai Chi practice, makes it an ideal practice for the reduction of risk for coronary heart disease.

 

So, reduce coronary heart disease risk with Tai Chi.

 

“Tai chi offers other benefits as well for heart patients. The deep breathing enhances oxygen uptake, reducing the shortness of breath that’s also common with heart failure.” – Harvard Health Letter

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Zhang, G., Wang, S., Gu, Y., Song, L., Yu, S., & Feng, X. (2020). Tai Chi Improves Coronary Heart Disease Risk by Inactivating MAPK/ERK Pathway through Serum miR-126. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2020, 4565438. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/4565438

 

Abstract

Background

Tai Chi is effective in preventing heart disease (CHD) risk, but the molecular mechanism remains unclear. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of CHD and can be activated by miR-126. Tai Chi may exert its protective function through the miR-126-modulated MAPK pathway.

Methods

The CHD patients after PCI were randomized into the CG group (CG) (n = 19, normal care) and Tai Chi group (TG) (Tai Chi intervention, n = 17). Epicardial adipose tissue volume (EATV) (one main adverse cardiovascular event of CHD), HR (heart rate), QoL (quality of life) scores, and balance performance were measured in the two groups. The body fat content, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat were measured to reflect the improvement of adipose tissue dysfunction. The levels of miR-126 and MAPK-associated molecules were measured in peripheral blood leukocytes. Meanwhile, the effects of miR-126 silence and mimic on MAPK-associated molecules were also explored in cardiac cell H9C2.

Results

After the 3-month intervention, Tai Chi reduced EATV and HR and increased QoL scores and balance performance, respectively (P < 0.05). The fat percentage, body fat mass, and BMI were also significantly reduced after Tai Chi intervention (P < 0.05). The levels of miR-126, MAPK, JNK, and ERK in the TG group were lower than those in the CG group (P < 0.05). The miR-126 levels had a strong relationship with the values of EATV, HR, and QoL scores (P < 0.05). miR-126 silence or mimic inactivated or activated MAPK-associated molecules in the cardiac cell lines.

Conclusions

Tai Chi improved CHD risk by inactivating the MAPK/ERK pathway via serum miR-126

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7199556/

 

Improve Health, Well-Being, and Quality of Life with Breast Cancer with an Integrative Program Including Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness

Improve Health, Well-Being, and Quality of Life with Breast Cancer with an Integrative Program Including Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Our cancer experiences take up a lot of energies, mental focus and can drain us emotionally. It is important to have a few tools to help us create ‘down’ and ‘out’ times, and to replenish and reconnect with who we are.  Mindfulness can also help during specific times of our cancer treatment – to prepare for surgery, while undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and before or during scans to help with scanxiety. “ – Karen Sieger

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. Anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia are common symptoms in the aftermath of surviving breast cancer. These symptoms markedly reduce the quality of life of the patients.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to help with cancer recovery and help to relieve chronic pain. It can also help treat the residual physical and psychological symptoms, including stress,  sleep disturbancefear, and anxiety and depression. Diet and exercise have also been shown to be effective for breast cancer patients who tend to become overweight or obese. The majority of research, however, explores mindfulness, diet, and exercise separately as treatments for breast cancer patients. It will be important to establish if the combination of these treatments may be especially effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Influence of a Multidisciplinary Program of Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness on the Quality of Life of Stage IIA-IIB Breast Cancer Survivors.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265566/), Ruiz-Vozmediano and colleagues recruited breast cancer patients who had completed treatment at least 12 months earlier. They were randomly assigned to a no-treatment control group or to receive a 6-month program of diet, exercise, and mindfulness. The diet intervention consisted of a 5-hour workshop on healthy eating that was repeated after 2 months. Exercise consisted of 7-weeks of 3 times per week for an hour stretching and weekly 50-minutes of dancing. Mindfulness training consisted of a 4-week, twice a week for 90 minutes Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program including discussion, meditation, yoga, and body scan. They were measured before and 6 months after the intervention for body size, food intake, and cancer quality of life. They also provided a blood sample that was assayed for glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, and tumor markers.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the participants who received the diet, exercise, and mindfulness intervention had significantly higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet, and greater quality of life including physical, role, and social functioning quality of life. They also had significant reductions in body weight, body mass index (BMI), blood triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein.

 

The results suggest that an integrated treatment of diet, exercise, and mindfulness training produces positive changes in breast cancer survivors including improvements in their quality of life, diet, body size, and blood lipid levels. Future research should perform a component analysis to determine the effects of each treatment component and their combinations on the patients. Regardless, the effects observed in the present study tend to predict maintained psychological and physical health in these patients.

 

So, improve health, well-being, and quality of life with breast cancer with an integrative program including diet, exercise, and mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness-based stress reduction can be effective in alleviating anxiety and depression, decreasing long-term emotional and physical side effects of treatments and improving the quality of sleep in breast cancer patients.” – BCRF

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ruiz-Vozmediano, J., Löhnchen, S., Jurado, L., Recio, R., Rodríguez-Carrillo, A., López, M., Mustieles, V., Expósito, M., Arroyo-Morales, M., & Fernández, M. F. (2020). Influence of a Multidisciplinary Program of Diet, Exercise, and Mindfulness on the Quality of Life of Stage IIA-IIB Breast Cancer Survivors. Integrative cancer therapies, 19, 1534735420924757. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735420924757

 

Abstract

Background: Integrative oncology has proven to be a useful approach to control cancer symptoms and improve the quality of life (QoL) and overall health of patients, delivering integrated patient care at both physical and emotional levels. The objective of this randomized trial was to evaluate the effects of a triple intervention program on the QoL and lifestyle of women with breast cancer. Methods: Seventy-five survivors of stage IIA-IIB breast cancer were randomized into 2 groups. The intervention group (IG) received a 6-month dietary, exercise, and mindfulness program that was not offered to the control group (CG). Data were gathered at baseline and at 6 months postintervention on QoL and adherence to Mediterranean diet using clinical markers and validated questionnaires. Between-group differences at baseline and 3 months postintervention were analyzed using Student’s t test for related samples and the Wilcoxon and Mann-Whitney U tests. Results: At 6 months postintervention, the IG showed significant improvements versus CG in physical functioning (p = .027), role functioning (p = .028), and Mediterranean diet adherence (p = .02) and a significant reduction in body mass index (p = .04) and weight (p = .05), with a mean weight loss of 0.7 kg versus a gain of 0.55 kg by the CG (p = .05). Dyspnea symptoms were also increased in the CG versus IG (p = .066). Conclusions: These results demonstrate that an integrative dietary, physical activity, and mindfulness program enhances the QoL and healthy lifestyle of stage IIA-IIB breast cancer survivors. Cancer symptoms may be better managed by the implementation of multimodal rather than isolated interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7265566/

 

Exercise on the Eightfold Path

mindful exercise running swimming walking | Stress Less Kzoo

Exercise on the Eightfold Path

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“it’s possible to merge awareness and physical exercise together as one. This allows you to experience the present moment during your physical activity.” – Adam Brady

 

We often think of meditation or spiritual practice as occurring in quiet places removed from the hubbub of life. This is useful to develop skills and deep understanding. Unfortunately, most people do not have the luxury of withdrawing into solitary or monastic life. But it is possible to practice even in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. In fact, there are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time in the complexities of the modern world. I find that engagement in exercise is one of many wonderful contexts in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, the Buddha’s prerequisites for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Actions, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Engaging in exercise on the eightfold path can not only improve health but also can contribute to spiritual development. As a bonus it can make exercising more enjoyable.

 

As we well know, engaging in regular physical exercise is important for our physical and mental health. Similarly, practicing mindfulness is important for our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Together they are a dynamite. But what needs to be done to combine them? With a little reflection, a myriad of opportunities to practice are available while exercising. The details will vary with the type of exercise and the individual, but these same opportunities are available regardless of the nature of the exercise.

 

An important component of developing the “Right View” is the recognition that all things are impermanent, they come and they go and never stay the same. When exercising it is easy to note that everything about the workout is impermanent. The body is stressed by exercise and this is a good thing as this is what leads to the beneficial effects of exercise. When moderately stressed muscles heal, they grow stronger. Sometimes the stress is pleasant and other times not so. But no matter what it will change, perhaps getting better or perhaps getting worse, but it will not stay the same. During exercise, the physical and mental state of the individual is constantly changing. The body fatigues and grows tired. Pain and discomfort may come and go. By recognizing how fleeting these feelings are, we witness the impermanence of all things. We grow to not only better understand the body and how it benefits from exercise but also see the operation of impermanence. This produces relaxation and acceptance of the body as it is, even as it’s changing, not only improving the exercise but reinforcing “Right View”.

 

A good example of this is practicing while running. I’m older and my knees are worn out so I practice this while speed walking. Noting the sensations from the foot each time in strikes the ground and as it lifts off the ground, it’s apparent that the sensations are constantly changing and never the same. Impermanence is on display. The same goes for the surrounding sights which are constantly changing. It’s impossible to hold onto any of the myriad of sensations occurring. They are constantly arising and passing away. Impermanence is on display.

 

Another important component of “Right View” is the recognition that everything is interconnected. This is readily apparent during exercise. During yoga practice all of the aspects of the body work together. As the muscles are stressed they increase the heart rate and respiration. With each pose the muscles produce heat, causing sweating and dilatation of the blood vessels at the surface. Moving into each pose produces changes in balance which produce automatic changes in other muscles to compensate and maintain balance and equilibrium. The senses are engaged in monitoring for pain and fatigue and guiding the exercise. Try paying attention to all of the parts of the body and how they are affected in performing a forward bend, a tree pose, or a lower cobra. By paying attention to these processes during this practice, how the entire body is engaged can be witnessed even if the exercise is targeted at only particular muscles. Interconnectedness is completely apparent. The awareness of this interconnectedness allows for better exercise while reinforcing “Right View”.

 

One practice I employ with exercise is to identify the limiting component. For me it’s breathing that seems to limit what I can do. My ability to play basketball is limited by the ability to get oxygen to the muscles while sprinting down the court. For others, it’s their knees or other joints, or cardiac capacity, or body temperature. There’s always something that keeps the individual from going faster, or being stronger or more accurate. The ability of the entire body to excel is limited by this factor. All other aspects of physical function are restrained by it. All other aspects are interconnected with it. as it all works together.

 

This interconnectedness is particularly apparent in team sports. In these contexts, participants affect one another, everyone on the team and everyone on the opposing team. In fact, that interconnectedness is part of the allure and enjoyment of team sports. As every athlete knows, performance is also affected by the individual’s psychological state. At times, exercisers just don’t feel like doing it but force themselves. While at other times, they feel great and can’t wait to get into it. In both cases this psychological state markedly alters the exercise. It’s all interconnected. Hence, the “Right View” of interconnectedness is readily apparent during exercise. Make it part of the exercise to pay attention to and recognize this interconnectedness. It’s on display.

 

Still another important component of “Right View” is the recognition of the presence of suffering and unsatisfactoriness in all activities. Exercising is a wonderful opportunity to observe this unsatisfactoriness and its roots. While cycling we want everything to be a certain way and when it isn’t, we are unhappy. We want to go faster, or with have greater strength for peddling up hills, or with greater endurance to ride further. The cyclist wants the weather to be just right, the wind to die down, to always be at the back, or for it to be cooler. We want the body’s discomforts to go away. In other words, rather than enjoy cycling, we make it unsatisfactory by not accepting how things are. All things, big and small, are almost always less than optimum. If we focus on this and crave it to be different, then we suffer. But, if we simply accept these conditions as they are, we can ride our bicycle with appreciation and enjoyment with unsatisfactoriness on display. Note, how this constantly arises in thoughts during exercise. Recognizing this can lead to greater understanding of how we make ourselves unhappy, and how by simply accepting things as they are produces better performance and greater enjoyment. Practicing this will reinforce “Right View.”

 

While exercising, playing sports, or being an observer there are frequent opportunities to practice “Right Intentions.” Here reducing or preventing harm and promoting greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being for all participants can be practiced. This is particularly important for team sports. It is useful, beforehand, to set this intention to make engaging in the game be beneficial for all participants. “Right Intentions” involves targeting what to do while exercising to increase peace, well-being, and happiness, including the abandonment of unwholesome desires.

 

If exercise particularly in competitive sports, is engaged in with anger, impatience, selfishness, and resentment it is likely to produce harm to everyone involved. Sports, such as football, can be dangerous and can produce physical harm to others. Obviously, games like football are particularly good candidates to play with “Right Intentions.” This way injury or harm can be minimized. It would seem obvious, but taking the time beforehand to establish “Right Intentions” may determine if the game is fun and wholesome or negative and harmful.

 

When I was young playing basketball with friends an opponent grabbed me as I ran toward the basket. I got angry and retaliated by shoving my friend away forcefully. He fell back so hard that he was momentarily paralyzed. This scared everyone and especially me. It made me recognize the potential harm that I could cause by acting on anger. If I had simply accepted that I was fouled and let it go, no harm would have occurred and play could have continued. The recognition that anger can only lead to more harm is wisdom that can lead to minimizing harm and promoting the greater good. Seeing the situation as it is, and seeing opponents with eyes of compassion leads to skillful actions promoting the happiness and well-being of all.

 

I’ve found that playing golf is a wonderful opportunity to practice. It has always amazed me how players make themselves so unhappy while engaging in something that’s supposed to be fun. I’ve seen players go into a rage after hitting a poor shot, screaming profanities, pounding their club into the ground or throwing or even breaking the club in rage. This can create a negative atmosphere that sweeps all the players up into a negative mood and destroys the fun and happiness that is the point of playing the game. “Right Intentions” can help here. I’ve learned to approach the game as just that, a game that is to be enjoyed, to laugh at my own incompetence, and joke with the other players about our plight.

 

We go around the course laughing and having a ball. What a difference it can make, I’ve had other players remark how much they admire me, not for my play which is horrible, but for my enjoyment of the game regardless of how well or more often terribly I play. It changes the atmosphere and infects those that I play with. Just setting the intention ahead of time to have fun regardless, to promote happiness, makes a world of difference. The ripples of good feelings that are created, may spill over from golf to home or work life enhancing life in general.

 

Playing sports with courtesy, with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will needs to be continuously worked on. It’s a practice. “Right Intentions” are a key. They become the moral compass. They tend to lead in the right direction even though at times there are stumbles.  It is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of actions. It is also very difficult avoid all harm. But forming “Right Intentions” and aspiring to create good and happiness will produce more harmony, good will, and happiness and for the practitioner it will produce progress along the eightfold path.

 

Exercising is another situation to practice “Right Actions.” To some extent taking care of our bodies is “Right Action” as it benefits our health and well-being, which relieves suffering and increases happiness. While working out “Right Actions” includes following the “Middle Way.” Exercising overly aggressively could produce injury while exercising too lightly is probably a waste of time. While exercising in social contexts such as in a gym or jogging with friends, there can be a tendency to show off. This can be harmful to others by promoting jealousy or decreasing their feelings of self-worth or causing them to try too hard potentially leading to injury.

 

I used to jog with a group that met at lunchtime. We would all wait around until everyone was there to begin our run. But as soon as we began, one particular runner always leapt ahead and ran well in front of the group for the entire run. At first many of us would try to keep up. This would simply lead to him running even faster to stay ahead. This was not good. We were exercising, not racing. It detracted from the good feelings and camaraderie of the group and caused many of us to run too fast for our ability and to suffer. After a while we learned to ignore him and enjoy running with the rest of the group. This was “Right Actions.” It did make me wonder what suffering was driving him to turn a healthy and fun social run into a race and what I might do to help relieve that suffering. But he always ran ahead and alone making it impossible to communicate.

 

In some sports lying and cheating occur frequently. Fishing and golf are wonderful examples. outright lied about. Golfers frequently do things such as surreptitiously move their ball to a better lie, or report a lower score than they actually had. This is not “Right Actions.” Scrupulous honesty on the long-term leads to greater happiness and well-being even in these kinds of small and often accepted dishonesties.

 

While engaging in competitive sports we should have the “Right Intentions” of promoting good and happiness, and relieve suffering in ourselves and others. We can do so by competing patiently and courteously with attention and good sportsmanship. Unfortunately, the prevalent attitude is that “winning is everything.” This works contrary to “Right Actions.” With “Right Actions” promoting happiness, and relieving suffering in everyone involved “is everything.”  We can only control our own actions while competing. So that is where we practice. But, when we compete with “Right Actions” it affects our competitors, making the game more enjoyable, healthier, and productive for everyone.

 

Verbal and non-verbal interactions are frequently present while exercising, playing sports, or even as a spectator. There are many opportunities to practice “Right Communications”. It involves communicating in such a way as to promote understanding and to produce good feelings. It is non-violent and non-judgmental communications. While engaging in exercise or sports it is important to think before communicating, is the communication true, is it necessary, and is it kind.

 

While playing golf we communicate verbally and non-verbally and try to do so with “Right Communications”. When someone makes a great shot, we celebrate with them, possibly teasing them as to why they can’t do that every time, and when they make a terrible shot kidding them that it was better than they usually do, or compare it to our own terrible shots. Note that teasing may not on the surface seem to be true, necessary, and kind. But it can lighten the atmosphere and the back and forth can promote good feelings. Non-verbally, we sometimes celebrate ridiculously, dancing around like a clown, when making a good shot, again promoting enjoyment.

 

Right Communications” often involves deep listening. It is impossible to respond appropriately to another if you haven’t listened carefully to exactly what the other said or looked carefully at their expressions or body language. In playing doubles tennis, watch and listen to your partner. They may show anger or slump after a poor shot. In this case “Right Communications” may involve encouraging the partner or pointing out that the shot that they were attempting was a great idea, or make light of it by saying something to the effect that the shot looked more like something you would do. What would be the right approach depends on the individual and the context. But watching and listening carefully can help to understand what communication may produce the most good and happiness.

 

Even as spectators it is useful to practice “Right Communications”. I’ve observed parents at youth soccer games yelling at referees, players, and coaches. My 13 year old grandson worked hard to become a referee for children’s soccer matches and earn extra money. But he has dropped it because of the abuse that these parents heaped on him for every decision. No matter what decision he made parents on one side or the other would chastise him. I’ve also seen the impact on the children as their parents yell at the referees or at them for their performance. It’s a truly sad display of wrong communications by the adults.

 

It’s quite simple to see that “Right Communications” are needed. If the parents had stopped and thought if what they were communicating was true, necessary, and kind, if they had listened deeply or watched with compassion, there may have been a completely different atmosphere at the games, my grandson may still be refereeing, and the children would feel good about playing and would be having fun. Such behavior is not confined to youth soccer. Simply observe fans at sporting events even at the professional level, yelling obscenities and insults at opponents or even at their own team’s players. Indeed, even the players are taunting, hurling insults, and “trash talking” to each other. It is clear that there is a great need to teach fans and players, not only good sportsmanship, but also “Right Communications”. We may not be able to change others but at least we can conduct “Right Communications”.

 

There are many ways that people can make a living with exercise and sports, from a professional athlete or coach to a personal trainer, to a general manager or executive. This can be itself “Right Livelihood”. It is if it is directed to creating good, helping people, keeping peace, and moving society forward in a positive direction. College coaches using student athletes to further their careers without regard to the furtherance of the players well-being or teaching player “dirty tricks” to harm or injure their opponents would definitely not be “Right Livelihood”.

 

One should reflect deeply on what they’re doing to ascertain whether it promotes good. It is not ours to judge the “rightness” of the livelihood of athletes, coaches, sports executives etc. This is a personal matter where intention matters, that must be reflected upon deeply. The process itself of evaluating “Right Livelihood” may heighten awareness of the consequences of participating in their careers and make them better able to see and correct where they may be going wrong. This can help move the individual along the Buddha’s path.

 

Exercise also presents a fine context to practice “Right Effort”. In fact, exercise has its maximum benefit when it is fairly strenuous but not too strenuous. If it’s overdone the body will provide appropriate feedback with aches and pains, hopefully not injuries. If it’s done lazily, the body will not improve. So, exercise is almost a perfect situation to teach “Right Effort”. It involves acting according to the “Middle Way.” That is, not trying too hard and getting hurt, but also not being lackadaisical.  “Right Effort” is a relaxed effort. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.

 

Experienced yoga practitioners know this all too well. Yoga can be very beneficial when practiced with “Right Effort” but can be injurious when done improperly. Poses must be held at the appropriate level, slightly backed off from the individual’s limit without going beyond. Struggling to go deeper, beyond the practitioner’s capability, is a formula for injury. Entering too lightly is a formula for wasting time and receiving no benefit. So, not only is yoga practice a good place to practice “Right Effort” it, in fact, provides feedback demonstrating what the “Right Effort” level should be.

 

Athletes know that to perform optimally they must relax and not press too hard. This is one of the reasons why meditation practice has proved so beneficial for athletes. It allows them to relax into the present moment and react appropriately to their body’s capabilities. I’ve found that with swimming, if I try too hard to go fast, I actually go slower. On the other hand, when I simply swim with moderate effort but with a relaxed body, it produces and efficient stroke and an appropriate body position in the water for optimum speed. So, “Right Effort” with exercise pays off with optimum performance, physical benefit, and progress on the eightfold path.

 

Exercise requires an accurate understanding of the state of our bodies and the environment in the present moment in order to determine what level of exercise are needed to promote good performance and enjoyment.  In other words, it requires “Right Mindfulness”. Unfortunately, for most of us mindless exercise is probably the norm. While exercising many people listen to music, talk on their cell phones, watch television, or carry on a conversation. But paying attention to what is being experienced while exercising or engaging in sports can turn the exercise into a meditative practice. It creates a richly textured experience of physical and mental activities. It heightens the experience and makes it much more enjoyable.

 

A prototype is walking meditation, where the individual practices “Right Mindfulness”. The meditator pays close attention to the sensations from the body while slowly walking. Observing each step, feeling the foot hit the ground and pull off the ground, observing each breath, feeling the air on the skin and the touch of the clothing, feeling the muscles contract and relax, experiencing the sights, smells and sounds in the environment. It’s an amazingly pleasant and productive practice.

 

With exercise, the same technique can be used but greatly speeded up. Jogging can be a speeded-up version of walking meditation. I use “Right Mindfulness” while swimming laps in a pool by doing a body scan. I start on the first lap with paying attention to the sensations from the toes, on the second lap I move to the tops of my feet, next to the bottoms of the feet, to the ankle, shin, knee, thigh etc. The feeling of the water and the movement of each body part is an exquisite practice. I was tired of the boredom of swimming until I developed this practice. It makes the drudgery of lap swimming mindful, interesting, and pleasurable, not to mention that my stroke becomes more efficient and the laps go by quickly. “Right Mindfulness” can be applied to virtually every exercise and sporting activity and will not only make it better but help the participant along the Buddha’s eightfold path.

 

“Right Concentration” is the practice of focusing the mind solely on one object or a specific unchanging set of objects. Mindfulness is paying attention to whatever arises, but concentration is paying attention to one thing to the exclusion of everything else. This is usually developed during contemplative practice such as meditation. It is difficult to practice during the complex activities involved in exercise. But during repetitive automatized exercises such as jogging concentration on the breath can be practiced.

 

Engaging in exercise on the eightfold path is a practice. Over time I have gotten better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or my emotions get the better of me. But, by continuing the practice I’ve slowly progressed. I’ve become a better at seeing what needs to be accomplished. I am learning to be relaxed with a smile on my face when I engage in exercise and enjoy the workout.

 

Can we attain enlightenment through exercise? Probably not! But we can practice the eightfold path that the Buddha taught leads there. The strength of engaging exercise with the practices of the eightfold path is that it occurs in the real world of our everyday life. Quiet secluded practice is wonderful and perhaps mandatory for progress in spiritual development. But for most people it only can occur during a very limited window of time. By extending the practice directly into the mainstream of our lives we can greatly enhance its impact. I like to keep in mind the teaching that actions that lead to greater harmony and happiness should be practiced, while those that lead to unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness should be let go.  Without doubt, by practicing the eightfold path in our engagement in exercise leads to greater harmony and happiness and as such should definitely be included in our spiritual practice.

 

“The message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences of physical activity become prominent. For those experiences to be noticed, one must become aware of them. . . this can be achieved by being mindful.” – Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

Lunchtime Mindfulness and Exercise Training have only Weak Benefits for Stress and Mental Health

Lunchtime Mindfulness and Exercise Training have only Weak Benefits for Stress and Mental Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The research is strong for mindfulness’ positive impact in certain areas of mental health, including stress reduction, emotion and attention regulation, reduced rumination, for reducing mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and preventing depressive relapse.” – Kelle Walsh

 

Over the last several decades, research and anecdotal experiences have accumulated an impressive evidential case that the development of mindfulness has positive benefits for the individual’s mental, physical, and spiritual life. Mindfulness appears to be beneficial both for healthy people and for people suffering from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses. It appears to be beneficial across ages, from children to the elderly. And it appears to be beneficial across genders, personalities, race, and ethnicity. The breadth and depth of benefits is unprecedented. There is no other treatment or practice that has been shown to come anyway near the range of mindfulness’ positive benefits.

 

Exercise can also improve emotions and their regulation. More and more businesses are employing mindfulness training for their employees improving their well-being and promoting creativity and productivity. So, it makes sense to study the relative abilities of exercise and mindfulness training in the workplace in promoting well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness versus Physical Exercise: Effects of Two Recovery Strategies on Mental Health, Stress and Immunoglobulin A during Lunch Breaks. A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215846/), Díaz-Silveira and colleagues recruited mid-level professionals with moderate stress levels who were nor either regularly exercising or practicing mindfulness from a large multinational company. They were randomly assigned to a no-treatment, mindfulness, or exercise group. Mindfulness training consisted of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Exercise consisted of aerobic gym and outdoor workouts. “The intervention took place during the five working days of five consecutive weeks, during which the two active groups practiced MM or PE during the lunch break (before having lunch), with equal time intervals of 15 min in the first week, 20 min in the second week, 25 min in the third week and 30 min in the fourth and fifth weeks.” They were measured before and after training and 1 and 6 months later for perceived stress and general mental health and provided saliva samples that were assayed for immunoglobulin A.

 

They found that immediately after the 5-weeks of training both the mindfulness and exercise groups had significant reduction in perceived stress including harassment, overload, and irritability-tension-fatigue dimensions. But these improvements were no longer present 1 and 6 months later. They also found that at the 6-month follow up the mindfulness group had significantly improved mental health.

 

These are interesting but somewhat disappointing results. Mindfulness training and exercise appeared to reduce perceived stress levels but the benefits did not last. Also, the mental health benefit for mindfulness training was only apparent at the 6-month follow-up. Prior research has routinely reported lasting reductions in perceived stress and mental health. This suggests that mindfulness and exercise training during the work lunch hour is not the best way to approach mindfulness training in the workplace. The reasons for this should be explored in future research. But it is possible that the rest and relaxation during lunchtime is important for well-being and that filling this time with mindfulness and exercise practice is somewhat counterproductive.

 

So, lunchtime mindfulness and exercise training have only weak benefits for stress and mental health.

 

Mindfulness is recommended as a treatment for people with mental ill-health as well as those who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing.” – Mental Health Foundation

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Díaz-Silveira, C., Alcover, C. M., Burgos, F., Marcos, A., & Santed, M. A. (2020). Mindfulness versus Physical Exercise: Effects of Two Recovery Strategies on Mental Health, Stress and Immunoglobulin A during Lunch Breaks. A Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(8), 2839. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17082839

 

Abstract

This research analyses the effects of mindfulness meditation (MM) and physical exercise (PE), practised as daily recovery activities during lunch breaks, on perceived stress, general mental health, and immunoglobin A (IgA). A three-armed randomized controlled trial with 94 employees was conducted for five weeks including two follow-up sessions after one and six months. Daily practice lasted 30 min maximum. Perceived stress and general mental health questionnaires and saliva samples were used. There were significant differences in time factor comparing pre- and post-test of Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ) both for PE [Mdiff = 0.10, SE = 0.03, p = 0.03], and for MM [Mdiff = 0.09, SE = 0.03, p = 0.03]. Moreover, there were significant differences of interaction factor when comparing MM vs. PE in total score at pre-post [F = −2.62 (6, 168.84), p = 0.02, ω2 = 0.09], favoring PE with medium and high effect sizes. Regarding General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) variable, practicing MM showed significant effects in time factor compared to pre-Fup2. No significant differences were found for IgA. Thus, practicing both MM and PE as recovery strategies during lunch breaks could reduce perceived stress after five weeks of practice, with better results for PE. Moreover, practicing MM could improve mental health with effects for 6 months.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215846/

 

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

Improve the Aging Brain and Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

On average, the brains of long-term meditators were 7.5 years younger at age 50 than the brains of non-meditators, and an additional 1 month and 22 days younger for every year after 50.”Grace Bullock

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our cognitive (mental) abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Research has found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A), Tang and colleagues recruited healthy older participants who practiced for an hour a day 6 – 7 days a week for 12 years either physical exercise, aerobic walking, or integrated mind-body training, including body relaxation, mental imagery and mindfulness training. The participants underwent brain imaging with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). They had their heart rate, respiration. and skin conductance recorded during a fitness exercise session. Salivary Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), an index of mucosal immunity and Cortisol levels, an index of stress, were measured at rest, during stress, and during training. They also completed scales measuring general health and quality of life.

 

They found that the mindfulness group had significantly higher resting heart rate and respiration, high frequency heart rate variability, quality of life, and sIgA levels and significantly lower cortisol levels and skin conductance than the exercise group. In addition, they found that the mindfulness group compared to the exercise group had significantly larger brain striatum including the caudate and putamen and significantly greater functional connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and the striatum and also the insula.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that long-term mindfulness practice results in differences in the psychological, physical, and neural states compared to physical exercise. Psychological well-being improvement in the mindfulness group was suggested by the greater reported quality of life. Physiological improvements in the mindfulness group were suggested by greater relaxation as indexed by greater autonomic nervous system, parasympathetic activity and measured by heart rate variability and skin conductance and lower stress hormone, cortisol, levels. The greater volume of the striatum and greater connectivity with the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex also suggest greater physiological relaxation. The mindfulness group also showed greater immune system function as indexed by sIgA levels. On the other hand, the aerobic walking group demonstrated greater physical fitness as indexed by lower resting heart rate and respiration.

 

In sum, these findings suggest the long-term aerobic walking exercise is good for the physical fitness of older adults. But long-term mindfulness training is better for their overall psychological and physical well-being. These results correspond with other prior findings that shorter-term mindfulness practice results in greater autonomic relaxation, quality of life, and neuroplastic changes in brain systems and that this training reduces the physiological and psychological deterioration occurring with aging.

 

So, improve the aging brain and well-being with mindfulness training.

 

“Mind and body practices, in particular, including relaxation techniques and meditative exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are being used by older Americans, both for fitness and relaxation, and because of perceived health benefits.” –  National Center for Complementayy and Integrative Health

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tang Y-Y, Fan Y, Lu Q, Tan L-H, Tang R, Kaplan RM, Pinho MC, Thomas BP, Chen K, Friston KJ and Reiman EM (2020) Long-Term Physical Exercise and Mindfulness Practice in an Aging Population. Front. Psychol. 11:358. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358

 

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that physical exercise and mindfulness meditation can both lead to improvement in physical and mental health. However, it is unclear whether these two forms of training share the same underlying mechanisms. We compared two groups of older adults with 10 years of mindfulness meditation (integrative body-mind training, IBMT) or physical exercise (PE) experience to demonstrate their effects on brain, physiology and behavior. Healthy older adults were randomly selected from a large community health project and the groups were compared on measures of quality of life, autonomic activity (heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance response, respiratory amplitude/rate), immune function (secretory Immunoglobulin A, sIgA), stress hormone (cortisol) and brain imaging (resting state functional connectivity, structural differences). In comparison with PE, we found significantly higher ratings for the IBMT group on dimensions of life quality. Parasympathetic activity indexed by skin conductance response and high-frequency heart rate variability also showed more favorable outcomes in the IBMT group. However, the PE group showed lower basal heart rate and greater chest respiratory amplitude. Basal sIgA level was significantly higher and cortisol concentration was lower in the IBMT group. Lastly, the IBMT group had stronger brain connectivity between the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the striatum at resting state, as well as greater volume of gray matter in the striatum. Our results indicate that mindfulness meditation and physical exercise function in part by different mechanisms, with PE increasing physical fitness and IBMT inducing plasticity in the central nervous systems. These findings suggest combining physical and mental training may achieve better health and quality of life results for an aging population.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00358/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1293822_69_Psycho_20200407_arts_A

 

Reduce Sedentariness with Mindfulness

Reduce Sedentariness with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

mindfulness- and acceptance-based practices can help exercisers establish the consistent, high-quality exercise practices required to experience the health benefits of exercise and physical activity.” – R. Shangraw

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But many health problems are behavioral problems such as sedentary lifestyle. Promoting exercise and reducing sedentariness has the potential to markedly improve health. Mindfulness training also has been shown to promote health and improve illness. Mindfulness and exercise, though, are not entirely independent. Research has been accumulating on the relationship between mindfulness and exercise. It makes sense, then, to summarize what has been learned.

 

In today’s Research News article “Exploring the Use of Meditation as a Valuable Tool to Counteract Sedentariness.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00299/full), Bigliassi and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the relationship of mindfulness with physical exercise,

 

They report that the published research has found that mindfulness increases physical activity in both normal, overweight and obese individuals. They also report that mindfulness increases self-compassion and it, in turn, increases the likelihood of engagement or reengagement in exercise. Mindfulness appears to facilitate exercise in active individuals by increasing sensory awareness of interoceptive and exteroceptive stimuli, making exercise more enjoyable. It can also improve mood and decrease anxiety which in turn reduces some emotional impediments to engaging in exercise. In addition, mindfulness reduces pain sensitivity which can improve engagement in high intensity exercises.

 

Both mindfulness and exercise are known to promote mental and physical health. The review suggests that they act synergistically with mindfulness making engaging in exercise more likely, increasing the sensory awareness of the exercise, reducing negative emotional impediments to exercise, increasing self-compassion, reducing the pain during exercise, and increasing the likelihood of reengagement in exercise after a lapse. Hence, mindfulness has beneficial effects to promote exercise, reducing sedentariness, and promoting health and well-being.

 

So, reduce sedentariness with Mindfulness.

 

Practicing mindfulness exercises and daily physical activity has been shown repeatedly to help manage stress and depression, and promote mental balance and happiness.” – Defeat Diabetes Foundation

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Bigliassi M and Bertuzzi R (2020) Exploring the Use of Meditation as a Valuable Tool to Counteract Sedentariness. Front. Psychol. 11:299. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00299

 

Some forms of meditation have been recently proposed as effective tools to facilitate the handling of undesired thoughts and reappraisal of negative emotions that commonly arise during exercise-related situations. The effects of meditation-based interventions on psychological responses could also be used as a means by which to increase exercise adherence and counteract the detrimental consequences of sedentariness. In the present article, we briefly describe the effects of meditation on physical activity and related factors. We also propose a theoretical model as a means by which to further understanding of the effects of meditation on psychological, psychophysical, and psychophysiological responses during exercise. The results of very recent studies in the realms of cognitive and affective psychology are promising. The putative psychological mechanisms underlying the effects of meditation on exercise appear to be associated with the interpretation of interoceptive and exteroceptive sensory signals. This is primarily due to the fact that meditation influences the cerebral processing of physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts. In such instances, the bodily and perceptual responses that are commonly reported during exercise might be assuaged during the practice of meditation. It also appears that conscious presence and self-compassion function as an emotional backdrop against which more complex behaviors can be forged. In such instances, re-engagement to physical activity programs can be more effectively achieved through the implementation of holistic methods to treat the body and mind. The comments provided in the present paper might have very important implications for exercise adherence and the treatment of hypokinetic diseases.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00299/full

 

Reduce Incontinence in Women with Yoga

Reduce Incontinence in Women with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The pelvic floor is an instrumental player in the health and function of your bladder. Specifically, the perineum and the dynamic layers of muscle that compromise the inner pelvis, which are active in the passage of urine and control of the bladder. If you do experience leaks . . . strengthening your perineum with yoga will isolate the muscle, only furthering your ability to reduce leaks caused by incontinence.” – TENA

 

Urinary incontinence is common, particularly in women, and involves an involuntary loss of urine. This can range from slightly bothersome to debilitating. Possible public humiliation results in many women refraining from otherwise enjoyable public activities. This occurs due to problems with nerves and weakening of muscles that normally hold or discharge urine. Urinary incontinence occurs in about 10% of women and 2% of men under age 65 and 35% of women and 22% of men over age 65. Treatment can involve exercise, drugs, electrical stimulation, or even surgery.

 

Effective exercises for urinary incontinence strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles. Yoga is a gentle exercise with a number of poses that strengthen the pelvic floor. In addition, yoga practice increases body awareness helping the individual to better sense and control the muscles involved. Also, yoga can reduce anxiety and stress which can contribute to urinary incontinence. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the application of yoga exercises for the treatment of urinary incontinence.

 

In today’s Research News article “A group-based yoga program for urinary incontinence in ambulatory women: feasibility, tolerability, and change in incontinence frequency over 3 months in a single-center randomized trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314206/?report=classic), Huang and colleagues recruited older women (> 50 years of age) who had urinary incontinence and provided them with a “written pamphlet providing basic patient-directed information about behavioral self-management of incontinence (such as pelvic floor exercises and timed urination) consistent with usual first-line care.” They were randomly assigned them to either receive additional 3 months, twice a week for 90 minutes, of yoga training or non-specific muscle stretching and strengthening. They were also asked to practice at home for an hour at least once a week. The yoga poses taught were selected to improve bladder control. They were measured before and after training for safety, feasibility, frequency of incontinence, and incontinence quality of life.

 

They found that over the 3-month program incontinence decreased by 76% in the yoga group and 56% in the exercise group, stress induced incontinence decreased by 61% in the yoga group and 35% in the exercise group. Group differences were not statistically significant. Participation rates were high and no serious adverse events were reported.

 

Yoga training produced on average superior results to the exercise program the lack of a statistically significant difference does not allow definitive conclusions. Yoga practice has been shown to reduce the effects of stress on the individual. So, the reduction in stress induced incontinence would be expected. Hence, the results make it clear that yoga training is a feasible, safe, and effective treatment for urinary incontinence in older women.

 

So, reduce incontinence in women with yoga.

 

yoga can help women who suffer from urinary incontinence by improving pelvic health and help gain more control over their bladders.“ – Attends

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Huang, A. J., Chesney, M., Lisha, N., Vittinghoff, E., Schembri, M., Pawlowsky, S., … Subak, L. (2019). A group-based yoga program for urinary incontinence in ambulatory women: feasibility, tolerability, and change in incontinence frequency over 3 months in a single-center randomized trial. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 220(1), 87.e1–87.e13. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2018.10.031

 

Structured Abstract

Background:

Due to the limitations of existing clinical treatments for urinary incontinence, many women with incontinence are interested in complementary strategies for managing their symptoms. Yoga has been recommended as a behavioral self-management strategy for incontinence, but evidence of its feasibility, tolerability, and efficacy is lacking.

Objectives:

To evaluate the feasibility and tolerability of a group-based therapeutic yoga program for ambulatory middle-aged and older women with incontinence and examine preliminary changes in incontinence frequency as the primary efficacy outcome after 3 months.

Study Design:

Ambulatory women aged 50 years or older who reported at least daily stress-, urgency-, or mixed-type incontinence, were not already engaged in yoga, and were temporarily willing to forgo clinical incontinence treatments were recruited into a randomized trial in the San Francisco Bay area. Women were randomly assigned to take part in a program of twice weekly group classes and once weekly home practice focused on Iyengar-based yoga techniques selected by an expert yoga panel (yoga group) or a non-specific muscle stretching and strengthening program designed to provide a rigorous time-and-attention control (control group) for 3 months. All participants also received written, evidence-based information about behavioral incontinence self-management techniques (pelvic floor exercises, bladder training) consistent with usual first-line care. Incontinence frequency and type were assessed by validated voiding diaries. Analysis of covariance models examined within- and between-group changes in incontinence frequency as the primary efficacy outcome over 3 months.

Results:

Of the 56 women randomized (28 to yoga, 28 to control), mean age was 65.4 (±8.1) years (range 55–83 years), mean baseline incontinence frequency was 3.5 (±2.0) episodes/day, and 37 (66%) had urgency-predominant incontinence. Fifty women completed their assigned 3-month intervention program (89%), including 27 in the yoga and 23 in the control group (P=0.19). Of those, 24 (89%) in the yoga and 20 (87%) in the control group attended at least 80% of group classes. Over 3 months, total incontinence frequency decreased by an average of 76% from baseline in the yoga and 56% in the control group (P=0.07 for between-group difference). Stress incontinence frequency also decreased by an average of 61% in the yoga group and 35% in controls (P=0.045 for between-group difference), but changes in urgency incontinence frequency did not differ significantly between groups. Forty-eight non-serious adverse events were reported, including 23 in the yoga and 25 in the control group, but none were directly attributable to yoga or control program practice.

Conclusions:

Findings demonstrate the feasibility of recruiting and retaining incontinent women across the aging spectrum into a therapeutic yoga program and provide preliminary evidence of reduction in total and stress-type incontinence frequency after 3 months of yoga practice. When taught with attention to women’s clinical needs, yoga may offer a potential community-based behavioral self-management strategy for incontinence to enhance clinical treatment, although future research should assess whether yoga offers unique benefits for incontinence above and beyond other physical activity-based interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314206/?report=classic

 

Meditation and Exercise Reduce Inflammation Through Different Pathways

Meditation and Exercise Reduce Inflammation Through Different Pathways

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness techniques may be more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other activities that promote well-being.” – Science Daily

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression.

 

Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no external threat is apparent. Of course, it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Reduction of IP-10 and C-Reactive Protein via Aerobic Exercise or Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction Training in a Large Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6777863/), Meyer and colleagues recruited healthy sedentary adults aged 30 to 60 years. They were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, exercise, meditation, or wait-list control. The exercise and meditation groups received 8 weekly 2.5-hour sessions and practiced daily for 20 to 45 minutes. The exercise condition consisted of warm-up, aerobic exercise, and cool down. The meditation group received the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program consisting of meditation, yoga, body scan, and discussion. The participants maintained weekly activity logs and were measured before and after the intervention and 17 weeks later for body size, exercise, and the blood inflammatory biomarkers Interleukin-6, Interferon gamma-inducible protein-10 (IP-10) and C-Reactive Protein.

 

They found that during the follow-up period both C-Reactive Protein and Interferon gamma-inducible protein-10 (IP-10)  levels were lower for all groups, but the meditation group had significantly lower levels of C-Reactive Protein at the 17 week follow-up while the exercise group had significantly lower levels of Interferon gamma-inducible protein-10 (IP-10) at the post training and 17 week follow-ups. As expected, during follow-up the exercise group had significantly more exercise practice while the meditation group had significantly more meditation practice, but these increases were not significantly related to the amount of change in the inflammatory biomarkers.

 

These results suggest that both exercise and mindfulness practice reduce the levels of biomarkers of inflammation. But they appear to do so through different anti-inflammatory mechanisms. It has been well-established that both exercise and mindfulness practice improves physical and psychological health, and reduce the physical reactions to stress. The present results suggest that these improvements in health may at least in part be accounted for by reduction in the inflammatory response.

 

It is clear from this study that engaging in either exercise or mindfulness practice is beneficial for the health and well-being of the practitioner. Since these practices appear to work via different mechanisms it would seem possible that they would have additive effects where engaging in both would have increased effectiveness in decreasing the inflammatory response and improving health and well-being. This remains for future research.

 

So, meditation and exercise reduce inflammation through different pathways.

 

mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,” – David Creswell.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Meyer, J. D., Hayney, M. S., Coe, C. L., Ninos, C. L., & Barrett, B. P. (2019). Differential Reduction of IP-10 and C-Reactive Protein via Aerobic Exercise or Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction Training in a Large Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 41(2), 96–106. doi:10.1123/jsep.2018-0214

 

Abstract

Exercise and meditation improve health and well-being, potentially through decreasing systemic inflammation. In this study, healthy adults (N =413) were randomized to 8 weeks of training in aerobic exercise, matched mindfulness-based stress reduction, or wait-list control. Three inflammation-related biomarkers (C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10) were assessed preintervention, directly postintervention, and 17 weeks later. Within-group analyses found that exercise participants had decreased serum interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10 postintervention and 17 weeks later, whereas C-reactive protein was lower in mindfulness-based stress-reduction participants 17 weeks postintervention only. Self-reported physical activity or amount of meditation practice did not predict biomarker changes. This study suggests that (a) training in aerobic exercise can lower interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10, a chemokine associated with interferon activity and illness, and (b) training in mindfulness meditation may have a delayed effect on C-reactive protein, an important inflammatory biomarker. The findings highlight the likelihood of multiple, distinct pathways underlying the health-promoting effects of these lifestyle interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6777863/

 

Reduce Pain and Falls and Improve Mobility in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Reduce Pain and Falls and Improve Mobility in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Solid research shows that tai chi can benefit people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, tension headache, and other ongoing, painful conditions.” – Harvard Health

 

The process of aging affects every aspect of the physical and cognitive domains. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. Impaired balance is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. The elderly also frequently suffer from chronic pain.

 

Pain involves both physical and psychological issues. Physically, exercise can be helpful in strengthening the body to prevent or relieve pain. Psychologically, the stress, fear, and anxiety produced by pain tends to elicit responses that actually amplify the pain. Indeed, mindfulness practices are effective in treating pain and have been shown to be safe and effective in the management of low back painTai Chi, Qigong, and yoga  are all exercises and mindfulness practices that have been found to be effective for pain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi for older adults with chronic multisite pain: a randomized controlled pilot study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126990/), You and colleagues examine the ability of Tai Chi practice to reduce chronic pain in the elderly. They recruited elderly (>65 years of age) with multisite (2 or more) musculoskeletal pain who either had 1 or more falls in the last year or used a cane or walker. They were randomly assigned to receive 12 weeks, 2 hours, twice a week of either Tai Chi or light physical exercise. They were measured before and after training for acceptability of the exercises, chronic health conditions, pain, attention, executive function, physical function, gait, falls, and fear of falling. 83% of the elderly completed the study.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline the elderly who engaged in Tai Chi had significantly lower pain and pain interference with activities, improvements in gait, including stride and swing time, and decreased gait asymmetry, and decreased fear of falling, and fewer falls over the subsequent 9 months, while the light exercise group did not.

 

These are encouraging pilot results that are similar to other findings with Tai Chi with other types of patients. Unfortunately, because this was a small pilot study there were no statistically significant differences between the Tai Chi group and the light exercise group even though the Tai Chi groups was significantly improved relative to baseline whereas the light exercise group was not. But these results provide justification for performing a future large scale randomized controlled trial.

 

It’s important to note that Tai Chi is a gentle and safe mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice.

 

So, reduce pain and falls and improve mobility in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“Improved flexibility will reduce stiffness and help keep joints mobile. Stiffness causes pain; increase flexibility will relieve pain.  Tai Chi for Arthritis gently moves all joints, muscles and tendons throughout the body.” – Paul Lam

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

You, T., Ogawa, E. F., Thapa, S., Cai, Y., Zhang, H., Nagae, S., … Leveille, S. G. (2018). Tai Chi for older adults with chronic multisite pain: a randomized controlled pilot study. Aging clinical and experimental research, 30(11), 1335–1343. doi:10.1007/s40520-018-0922-0

 

Abstract

Background

Chronic pain is associated with poorer cognition and mobility, and fall risk in older adults.

Aims

To investigate the feasibility of a randomized trial of mind-body exercise (Tai Chi) versus light physical exercise in older adults with multisite pain.

Methods

Adults aged ≥ 65y with multisite pain who reported falling in the past year or current use of an assistive device were recruited from Boston area communities. Participants were randomized to either a Tai Chi or a light physical exercise program, offered twice weekly for 12 weeks. The primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability. Secondary outcomes included pain characteristics, cognition, physical function, gait mobility, fear of falling, and fall frequency.

Results

Of 176 adults screened, 85 were eligible, and 54 consented and enrolled (average age 75±8y; 96.30% white; 75.93% female). The dropout rate was 18% for Tai Chi and 12% for light physical exercise. For those completing the study, exercise class attendance was 76% for Tai Chi and 82% for light physical exercise. There were no significant group differences in most secondary outcomes. Tai Chi significantly lowered pain severity (4.58±1.73 to 3.73±1.79, p<0.01) and pain interference (4.20±2.53 to 3.16±2.28, p<0.05), reduced fear of falling (90.82±9.59 to 96.84±10.67, p<0.05), and improved several single-task and dual-task gait variables, while light physical exercise did not change these measures

Discussion and Conclusions

This study demonstrated the feasibility and acceptability of conducting a larger randomized controlled trial in older adults with multisite pain. Study findings and challenges encountered will inform future research.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126990/

 

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

When we engage in mindful practices, we can bring greater awareness, clarity, and equanimity to our day to day experiences. This leads to greater balance and less of the intense swings in mood that can throw us off kilter for days at a time.” – Sean Fargo

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotions and their regulation. Practitioners demonstrate more positive and less negative emotions and the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, while responding to them in appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders. Aerobic exercise can also improve emotions and their regulation. So, it makes sense to study the relationship between exercise and mindfulness in effecting emotion regulation.

 

In today’s Research News article “How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/), Zhang and colleagues recruited healthy female postgraduate students who did not have meditation experience and who did not engage in exercise. They were randomly assigned to a wait-list control condition or to engage in exercise 3 times per week over 8 weeks. The exercise alternated between jogging for 40 minutes and yoga practice for 60 minutes. The yoga practice consisted of postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. They were measured before and after the intervention for emotion regulation, negative emotions, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the aerobic exercise and yoga group had significant increases in emotion regulation, aerobic fitness, and mindfulness and decreases in negative emotions. They also found that increases in aerobic fitness were associated with increases in emotion regulation. But this association was only significant with participants who had high or moderate increases in their levels of mindfulness. At low levels of improvements in mindfulness there was no significant relationship between aerobic fitness and emotion regulation.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that aerobic exercise and yoga improves the individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. But mindfulness is required for aerobic exercise to be effective. The increases in mindfulness would be expected as the exercise intervention contained yoga and meditation components. Aerobic exercise is known to improve mood. It is new to show that it also improves emotion regulation. Perhaps that’s the reason for the improvements in mood. But in order for the emotion regulation to be improved by exercise, it must be accompanied by improvements in mindfulness. This suggests that the ability to pay attention in the present moment nonjudgmentally to one’s emotions is required for the exercise to affect the ability to regulate the emotions. Here mindfulness plays a permissive role allowing the exercise to have its effect on the participants ability to regulate their emotions.

 

So, Improve Emotion Regulation with Exercise and Mindfulness.

 

By acting mindfully, people are not only aware of their own feelings but become able to distance from it, avoiding feeling overpowered and acting out.” – Joan Swart

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How Does Exercise Improve Implicit Emotion Regulation Ability: Preliminary Evidence of Mind-Body Exercise Intervention Combined With Aerobic Jogging and Mindfulness-Based Yoga. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 1888. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

 

Abstract

Purpose: The primary aim of the present study is to examine the effect of 8-week mind-body exercise intervention combining aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga on implicit emotion regulation ability. The secondary aim is to explore the specific potential pathways by which the mind-body exercise intervention fosters implicit emotion regulation. This may help us to understand how the key components of exercise intervention contribute to emotional benefits.

Methods: Sixty participants were randomly allocated to one of two parallel groups: (1) the intervention group (n = 29) and (2) the waitlist control group (n = 31). Participants were asked to fill out scales measuring mindfulness and instructed to complete an emotion regulation task to assess implicit emotion regulation ability as well as the PWC 170 Test to evaluate aerobic fitness before and after the intervention.

Results: The results of the two-way repeated ANOVA revealed that 8 weeks of intervention improved implicit emotion regulation, mindfulness, and aerobic fitness levels. Path analysis showed that only improved aerobic fitness mediated the intervention effect on implicit emotion regulation ability, controlling for change in negative affect. Notably, the relationship between the effects on implicit emotion regulation ability and aerobic fitness was moderated by improved mindfulness.

Conclusion: Eight weeks of mind-body exercise intervention improves implicit emotion regulation ability. The aerobic fitness may be an essential pathway which mediates the efficacy on implicit emotion regulation ability. Furthermore, different components, such as aerobic fitness and mindfulness, may interactively contribute to such emotional benefits.

Keywords: mind-body exercise, aerobic jogging, mindfulness-based yoga, implicit emotion regulation ability, aerobic fitness, mindfulness, potential pathway

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6718717/