Improve the Physical and Psychological State of the Elderly with Qigong Exercise

Improve the Physical and Psychological State of the Elderly with Qigong Exercise

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Qi Gong is an excellent form of exercise for Seniors because of its gentle and soothing nature, anyone can do Qi Gong, regardless of age, ability, flexibility, or activity level! It is also significantly effective in improving balance, relieving pain, encouraging mobility and reducing stress.” – Exercise to heal

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities (cognition) which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

Qigong is 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, Qigong practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle mindfulness training and light exercise to improve physical and psychological health in aging individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Acute Physiological and Psychological Effects of Qigong Exercise in Older Practitioners.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5902057/ ), Lin and colleagues recruited practitioners of Chinese Bioenergy Qigong who were between the ages of 50 to 70 years. They were measured before and after a Qigong practice session for skin conduction, heart rate, anxiety, and overall health.

 

They found that after the single Qigong practice session there was a significant increase in skin conductance and heart rate and a significant decrease in anxiety. This suggests that there was an improvement in cardiovascular function and the practitioners psychological state after a single session of Qigong practice.

 

This study was a simple pre post comparison of the physical and psychological state of aging experienced practitioners after a single Qigong practice session. As such conclusions are severely limited. But, they do provide a glimpse at the short-term effects of Qigong practice that may underlie its long-term effectiveness. Indeed, the observed acute effects are in line with those observed over the long term, with Qigong practice improving cardiovascular function and the psychological state after practicing over a number of months. These effects are particularly important for the health and well-being of aging populations.

 

So, improve the physical and psychological state of the elderly with Qigong exercise.

 

qigong exercise helps the body to heal itself. In this sense, qigong is a natural anti-aging medicine.” – Qigong Institute

 

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

 

Lin, C. Y., Wei, T. T., Wang, C. C., Chen, W. C., Wang, Y. M., & Tsai, S. Y. (2018). Acute Physiological and Psychological Effects of Qigong Exercise in Older Practitioners. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 4960978. doi:10.1155/2018/4960978

 

Abstract

Qigong is a gentle exercise that promotes health and well-being. This study evaluated the acute physiological and psychological effects of one session of qigong exercise in older practitioners. A total of 45 participants (mean age, 65.14 years) were recruited. Meridian electrical conductance, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), heart rate variability (HRV), and Short Form 36 (SF-36) were evaluated and compared before and after one session of qigong exercise. The results revealed that the electrical conductance of all meridians, except spleen and bladder meridians, increased significantly (p < 0.05). Compared with baseline values, upper to lower body ratio and sympathetic/vagal index were significantly improved and closer to 1 (p = 0.011 and p = 0.007, resp.). STAI-S and STAI-T scores decreased significantly (p < 0.001 and p = 0.001, resp.). The RR interval of HRV decreased significantly (p = 0.035), a significant positive correlation was observed between kidney meridian electrical conductance and SF-36 physical scores (r = 0.74, p = 0.018), and a positive correlation was observed between pericardium meridian electrical conductance and SF-36 mental scores (r = 0.50, p = 0.06). In conclusion, one session of qigong exercise increased meridian electrical conductance, reduced anxiety, and improved body and autonomic nervous system balance. These findings provide scientific evidence for acute physiological and psychological effects of qigong exercise in older practitioners.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5902057/

 

Improve Cognition and Reduce Age-related Cognitive Decline with Meditation

Improve Cognition and Reduce Age-related Cognitive Decline with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While we might expect our bodies and brains to follow a shared trajectory of development and degeneration over time, by actively practicing strategies such as meditation, we might actually preserve and protect our physical body and brain structure to extend our golden years and shine even more brightly in old age.” – Sonima Wellness

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities (cognition) which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been 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.

 

Most studies of age-related decline are cross-sectional, comparing groups of different ages. In today’s Research News article “Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41465-018-0068-1 ), Zanesco and colleagues perform a longitudinal analysis, following participants for up to 7 years to investigate the effects of a meditation retreat on cognitive ability.

 

They recruited experienced meditators and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list control condition or to receive a 3-month intensive meditation retreat. After completion of the first retreat, the wait-list control participants received the 3-month meditation retreat. All participants were measured before, during, and after the retreat and 6 months, and 1.5 and 7 years later with a response inhibition task. In this task, participants were asked to respond when a long line is present and not respond when an infrequent short line was presented. This task measures high level thinking including attention, response inhibition, discrimination, and vigilance.

 

They found that during and following the retreat there were large significant improvements in perceptual discrimination, response inhibition, vigilance, and response time variance as measured in the response inhibition task. Importantly, these improvements were maintained for as much as 7 years after the completion of the retreat. Overall, older participants had age-related declines in accuracy. But, older participants who reported large amounts of continued meditation practice, did not have declines.

 

This study documents that the effects of a 3-month intensive meditation retreat on cognitive ability are large and lasting. In addition, they demonstrate that age-related declines in cognitive performance can be prevented by continued meditation practice. In this study, these effects were observed longitudinally, in the same individuals over time, supplementing the previous findings with cross-sectional studies of groups of individuals of different ages. This suggests that the loss of high-level thought ability does not necessarily inevitably have to decline as we age. It can be improved and sustained with meditation practice.

 

So, improve cognition and reduce age-related cognitive decline with meditation.

 

“What we do know is that long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” – B. grace Bullock

 

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

 

Zanesco, A.P., King, B.G., MacLean, K.A. et al. Cognitive Aging and Long-Term Maintenance of Attentional Improvements Following Meditation Training. J Cogn Enhanc (2018) 2: 259. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0068-1

 

Abstract

Sustained attention is effortful, demanding, and subject to limitations associated with age-related cognitive decline. Researchers have sought to examine whether attentional capacities can be enhanced through directed mental training, with a number of studies now offering evidence that meditation practice may facilitate generalized improvements in this domain. However, the extent to which attentional gains are maintained following periods of dedicated meditation training and how such improvements are moderated by processes of aging have yet to be characterized. In a prior report (Sahdra et al., Emotion 11, 299–312, 2011), we examined attentional performance on a sustained response inhibition task before, during, and after 3-months of full-time meditation. We now extend this prior investigation across additional follow-up assessments occurring up to 7 years after the conclusion of training. Performance improvements observed during periods of intensive practice were partially maintained several years later. Importantly, aging-related decrements in measures of response inhibition accuracy and reaction time variability were moderated by levels of continued meditation practice across the follow-up period. The present study is the first to offer evidence that intensive and continued meditation practice is associated with enduring improvements in sustained attention and response inhibition, with the potential to alter longitudinal trajectories of cognitive change across the lifespan.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41465-018-0068-1

 

Improve the Well-Being of Dementia Patients and Their Caregivers with Mindfulness

Improve the Well-Being of Dementia Patients and Their Caregivers with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“people who care for family members with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the home experienced a decrease in perceived stress and mood disturbance when practicing Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Another trial indicates that MBSR was “more effective at improving overall mental health, reducing stress, and decreasing depression” than those who only participated in a caregiver education and support intervention.” – Heather Stang

 

Dementia is a progressive loss of mental function produced by degenerative diseases of the brain. Dementia patients require caregiving particularly in the later stages of the disease. Caregiving for dementia patients is a daunting intense experience that can go on for four to eight years with increasing responsibilities as the loved one deteriorates. This places tremendous psychological and financial stress on the caregiver. Hence, there is a need to both care for the dementia patients and also for the caregivers. Mindfulness practice for caregivers has been shown to help them cope with the physical and psychological demands of caregiving. In addition, mindfulness training has been found to help protect aging individuals from physical and cognitive declines.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training for People With Dementia and Their Caregivers: Rationale, Current Research, and Future Directions.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6008507/ ), Berk and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness of mindfulness training for both the patients with dementia and their caregivers.

 

They found that the literature reports that mindfulness training can help patients with mild cognitive decline by improving memory. They also report that mindfulness training improves the quality of life and depression in dementia patients and their caregivers when they are trained in mindfulness together. They further found that the research reports that mindfulness training helps the caregivers for the dementia patient by lowering perceived stress levels and depression and improving their quality of life. Hence, it appears that mindfulness training improves the well-being of both dementia patients and their caregivers.

 

These results fit with previous findings that mindfulness training in general improves the psychological and physiological responses to stress, depression, cognitive function, and quality of life in a wide variety of patients and healthy individuals of all ages. The results further suggests that training the dementia patient and their caregiver together is feasible and may have additional benefits for both.

 

So, improve the well-being of dementia patients and their caregivers with mindfulness.

 

“The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members, and caregivers. Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.” – Ken Paller

 

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

 

Berk, L., Warmenhoven, F., van Os, J., & van Boxtel, M. (2018). Mindfulness Training for People With Dementia and Their Caregivers: Rationale, Current Research, and Future Directions. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 982. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00982

 

Abstract

The world population is aging and the prevalence of dementia is increasing. By 2050, those aged 60 years and older are expected to make up a quarter of the population. With that, the number of people with dementia is increasing. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia. The progression of symptoms with no hope of improvement is difficult to cope with, both for patients and their caregivers. New and evidence-based strategies are needed to support the well-being of both caregiver and patient. Mindfulness training is a body-mind intervention that has shown to improve psychological well-being in a variety of mental health conditions. Mindfulness, a non-judgmental attention to one’s experience in the present moment, is a skill that can be developed with a standard 8-week training. Research has shown preliminary but promising results for mindfulness-based interventions to benefit people with dementia and caregivers. The aim of this review is (a) to provide a rationale for the application of mindfulness in the context of dementia care by giving an overview of studies on mindfulness for people with dementia and/or their caregivers and (b) to provide suggestions for future projects on mindfulness in the context of dementia and to give recommendations for future research.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6008507/

 

Reduce Fear of Falling in the Elderly with Yoga

Reduce Fear of Falling in the Elderly with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Yoga makes you have a strong core, so when moving around in your daily life, you are not just flapping around. You are stable, in control.” – Anne Bachner

 

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. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly.

 

Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults, fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of falls in the elderly. Yoga practice helps to develop strength, flexibility, and balance. It would seem likely, then, that practicing yoga would reduce the likelihood of falling by the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “A mixed methods evaluation of yoga as a fall prevention strategy for older people in India.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928579/ ), Keay and colleagues recruited elderly participants (> 60 years of age) and provided them with 2 1-hour yoga classes per week for 3 months. The program emphasized standing poses that develop balance. The participants were measured before and after training for overall health, body size, fear of falling, history of falls, physical performance, and blood pressure. At the end of training the participants also attended focus groups with discussion focused on “perceptions of the yoga program, perceived benefits of yoga and understanding fall injury/reporting falls.”

 

They found that there were no adverse events and no falls reported during the program. After the 3-month yoga program the elderly participants were significantly faster in the sit-stand test, had increased stride length while walking, and significantly lower body weight and fear of falling. Hence, participation in a yoga program improved the physical abilities of the elderly. It should be noted that there wasn’t a control or comparison condition so conclusions should be reached cautiously.

 

The results suggest that practicing yoga is beneficial for elderly men and women. These results are sufficiently encouraging to support conducting a large randomized controlled trial. The participants in the present study were quite healthy at the beginning of the trail, so ceiling effects may have prevented the detection of further benefits. Indeed, the participants all successfully passed the most difficult balance test during the baseline test, leaving no room for improvement, In a future trial, it would be good to include participants whose health and physical abilities weren’t quite as good. Regardless, the results suggest that yoga practice is beneficial for the elderly.

 

So, reduce fear of falling in the elderly with yoga.

 

“the number of falls in older adults declined 48 percent in the six months after they began attending yoga classes compared to the six months prior.” – Breann Schossow

 

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

 

Keay, L., Praveen, D., Salam, A., Rajasekhar, K. V., Tiedemann, A., Thomas, V., … Ivers, R. Q. (2018). A mixed methods evaluation of yoga as a fall prevention strategy for older people in India. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 4, 74. http://doi.org/10.1186/s40814-018-0264-x

 

Abstract

Background

Falls are an emerging public health issue in India, with the impact set to rise as the population ages. We sought to evaluate the acceptability, feasibility and likely impact of a yoga-based program aimed at improving balance and mobility for older residents in urban India.

Methods

Fifty local residents aged 60 years and older were recruited from urban Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. They were invited to attend a 1-h yoga class, twice weekly for 3 months. Mixed methods were used to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility (qualitative) and likely impact (quantitative). Two focus groups and eight interviews with participants were conducted to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a yoga program. Thematic analysis was conducted in context of perceptions, barriers and benefits of yoga participation and fall ascertainment. Physical performance using the Short Physical Performance Battery, fear of falling, blood pressure and weight loss were measured before and after the program.

Results

The interviews and focus groups provided insights into the preferred format for classes, including session times, level of supervision and location. Improvements were seen in the Short Falls Efficacy Scale-International (Short FES-I (15.9 ± 4.0 vs 13.8 ± 2.1 s, p = 0.002)), the number of steps taken in the timed 4-m walk (T4MW (9.0 ± 1.8 vs 8.6 ± 1.8, p = 0.04)), Short FES-I scores (9.4 ± 2.9 vs 8.6 ± 2.9, p = 0.02) and weight (63.8 ± 12.4 vs 62.1 ± 11.6, p = 0.004) were lower. No changes were seen in standing balance, blood pressure or T4MW time.

Conclusion

Yoga was well accepted and resulted in improved ability to rise from a chair, weight loss, increased step length and reduced fear of falling. These results provide impetus for further research evaluating yoga as a fall prevention strategy in India.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928579/

 

Improve Brain Metabolism and Muscle Energetics in Older Adults with Tai Chi

Improve Brain Metabolism and Muscle Energetics in Older Adults with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

”A comparison of the effects of regular sessions of tai chi, walking, and social discussion, has found tai chi was associated with the biggest gains in brain volume and improved cognition.”  – Fiona McPherson

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for an elderly population. Indeed, Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging and to increase brain matter in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Improves Brain Metabolism and Muscle Energetics in Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6055800/ ), Zhou and colleagues recruited healthy older people (>55 years of age) and trained them in Tai Chi practice with a one hour, twice a week, for 12 weeks instruction. They were measured before and after training for leg strength while having their brains scanned for metabolites with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). N‐acetylaspartate (NAA) is a neuronal marker of neuronal health. They also measured the rate of recovery of phosphocreatine (PCr) in the leg following exercise, a marker of muscular fitness.

 

They found that after training there was a significant increase in N‐acetylaspartate (NAA). NAA is a marker of the number of neurons present in the brain. Hence it’s increase in this study suggests that Tai Chi training increases the number of brain cells in the elderly. This further suggests that Tai Chi training is neuroprotective and may reduce the degeneration of the brain that occurs in normal aging.

 

They also found that after training there was a significant decrease in the rate of recovery of phosphocreatine (PCr) in the leg following exercise. A PCr decrease indicates that the capacity of muscles to use oxygen has increased. This, then, is a measure of muscular fitness. Hence it’s decrease in this study suggests that Tai Chi training improves exercise fitness in older adults helping to counter the age related decline in strength.

 

These results suggest the biochemical mechanisms that may underlie the ability of Tai Chi training to slow or delay physical and mental decline and to increase brain matter. These results not only further support the benefits of Tai Chi training for aging adults but also indicate how this training may change the chemistry of the brain and muscles to counter the effects of aging.

 

So, improve brain metabolism and muscle energetics in older adults with Tai Chi.

 

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

 

“Studies have shown that the incorporation of Tai Chi to an elders’ exercise program can be beneficial. Tai Chi practice was “beneficial to improve the balance control ability and flexibility of older adults, which may be the reason of preventing falls.” – Eric Edelman

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Improves Brain Metabolism and Muscle Energetics in

Study Summary

 

Zhou, M., Liao, H., Sreepada, L. P., Ladner, J. R., Balschi, J. A., & Lin, A. P. (2018). Tai Chi Improves Brain Metabolism and Muscle Energetics in Older Adults. Journal of Neuroimaging, 28(4), 359–364. http://doi.org/10.1111/jon.12515

 

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Tai Chi is a mind‐body exercise that has been shown to improve both mental and physical health. As a result, recent literature suggests the use of Tai Chi to treat both physical and psychological disorders. However, the underlying physiological changes have not been characterized. The aim of this pilot study is to assess the changes in brain metabolites and muscle energetics after Tai Chi training in an aging population using a combined brain‐muscle magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) examination.

METHODS

Six healthy older adults were prospectively recruited and enrolled into a 12‐week Tai Chi program. A brain 1H MRS and a muscle 31P MRS were scanned before and after the training, and postprocessed to measure N‐acetylaspartate to creatine (NAA/Cr) ratios and phosphocreatine (PCr) recovery time. Wilcoxon‐signed rank tests were utilized to assess the differences between pre‐ and post‐Tai Chi training.

RESULTS

A significant within‐subject increase in both the NAA/Cr ratios (P = .046) and the PCr recovery time (P =.046) was observed between the baseline and the posttraining scans. The median percentage changes were 5.38% and 16.51% for NAA/Cr and PCr recovery time, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Our pilot study demonstrates significant increase of NAA/Cr ratios in posterior cingulate gyrus and significantly improved PCr recovery time in leg muscles in older adults following short‐term Tai Chi training, and thus provides insight into the beneficial mechanisms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6055800/

 

Slow Aging with Meditation

Slow Aging with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“What we do know is that long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” – B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process, starting in the 20s involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. There is interest in finding ways to slow the aging process to improve longevity and health and mindfulness training has been found to do just that.

 

DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells to control gene expression. Epigenetic effects on the DNA arise from the environment and not the genes themselves. DNA methylation can fix genes in the “off” position, preventing them from carrying out their normal function. Indeed, the amount of methylation of DNA is associated with disease and aging. The greater the amount of methylation in the DNA the more disease. It can be thought of as a cellular marker of aging. It is sometimes considered as an epigenetic clock, the greater the age, the more methylation. It is possible that meditation practice slows the aging process by decreasing methylation in the DNA.

 

In today’s Research News article “Epigenetic clock analysis in long-term meditators.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5863232/ ), Chaix and colleagues obtained blood samples from meditation naïve individuals and long-term (> 3 years) meditators. The samples were assayed for methylation in the DNA and this was used to calculate the intrinsic epigenetic age of the individual (the age predicted by the degree of DNA methylation).

 

They found, as expected, that the greater the amount of methylation of the DNA the greater the actual calendar age of the participant for both groups. In the meditation naïve participants those over 52 years of age had significantly higher intrinsic epigenetic ages than those under 52. This is as expected. On the other hand, the long-term meditators over 52 years of age had equivalent intrinsic epigenetic ages to those under 52. The longer the meditators had been practicing the greater the reduction in their intrinsic epigenetic age. It was reduced by 0.24 years for each year of meditation practice.

 

These results suggest a possible mechanism by which meditation practice may slow the aging process. They suggest that meditation practice reduces the methylation in the DNA and perhaps, thereby, helps maintain the DNA’s functional integrity into higher ages. Stress is known to increase DNA methylation. So, it is possible that mindfulness practices reduce methylation in the DNA by reducing the physiological and psychological effects of stress. Regardless, the results suggest that meditation practice slows the changes in the individual’s genetic material that’s associated with aging.

 

So, slow aging with meditation.

 

“According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 20 million Americans practice some form of meditation to achieve greater peace of mind and enhanced sense of well-being. Now studies of the neurological differences between meditators and non-meditators, and studies of immune cell aging via telomere length in meditators and non-meditators, show that meditation can also affect the way we age.” – Seth Segall

 

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

 

Chaix, R., Alvarez-López, M. J., Fagny, M., Lemee, L., Regnault, B., Davidson, R. J., … Kaliman, P. (2017). Epigenetic clock analysis in long-term meditators. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 85, 210–214. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.016

 

Abstract

In this paper, we examined whether meditation practice influences the epigenetic clock, a strong and reproducible biomarker of biological aging, which is accelerated by cumulative lifetime stress and with age-related chronic diseases. Using the Illumina 450 K array platform, we analyzed the DNA methylome from blood cells of long-term meditators and meditation-naïve controls to estimate their Intrinsic Epigenetic Age Acceleration (IEAA), using Horvath’s calculator. IEAA was similar in both groups. However, controls showed a different IEAA trajectory with aging than meditators: older controls (age ≥ 52) had significantly higher IEAAs compared with younger controls (age < 52), while meditators were protected from this epigenetic aging effect. Notably, in the meditation group, we found a significant negative correlation between IEAA and the number of years of regular meditation practice. From our results, we hypothesize that the cumulative effects of a regular meditation practice may, in the long-term, help to slow the epigenetic clock and could represent a useful preventive strategy for age-related chronic diseases. Longitudinal randomized controlled trials in larger cohorts are warranted to confirm and further characterize these findings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5863232/

 

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women with Tai Chi

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Practising the ancient martial art of Tai Chi is so beneficial to elderly people’s health that it should be “the preferred mode of training” – The Telegraph

 

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. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that tai chi practice would be well suited to improving balance and coordination in seniors and thereby reduce the likelihood of falls.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/ ), Zou and colleagues recruited elderly women (> 65 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a Tai Chi practice or no-treatment control conditions. Tai Chi was practiced under the supervision of a Tai Chi master for 90 minutes, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. They were measured before and after practice for physical activity and hip and foot flexibility. They also walked a short distance and their movements of the knee, hip, and ankle were analyzed through a kinematic analysis.

 

They found that the Tai Chi group and not the control group after the 8-week practice period had significant improvements in their walking including stride length, gait speed, stance phase, swing phase, and double support time. They also had significant improvements in their hip and foot flexibility and range of motion of the knee, hip, and ankle. No adverse events as a result of Tai Chi practice were reported by the participants.

 

These findings conclusively document the ability of Tai Chi practice to help maintain the flexibility and range of motion of elderly women. This is particularly important as it suggests that these women would be less likely to fall and maintain a high quality of life. In addition, as Tai Chi is gentle and safe, is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, 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, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle exercise to maintain the health and well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve movement and flexibility in older women with Tai Chi.

 

“Unlike other exercises, TCE may contribute to improving the quality of life and reducing depression in patients with chronic diseases.” – X. Wang

 

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

 

Zou, L., Wang, C., Tian, Z., Wang, H., & Shu, Y. (2017). Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women. Sports, 5(3), 52. http://doi.org/10.3390/sports5030052

 

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of Yang-style Tai chi (TC) on gait parameters and musculoskeletal flexibility in healthy Chinese female adults. Sixty-six female adults aged >65 years were randomly assigned to either an experimental group (67.9 ± 3.2 years of age) receiving three 90-min simplified 24-form TC sessions for eight weeks, or a control group (67.4 ± 2.9 years of age) who maintained their daily lifestyles. All study participants were instructed to perform a selected pace walking for recording gait parameters (stride length, gait speed, swing cycle time, stance phase, and double support times) at both baseline and after the experiment. Low-limb flexibility and range of motion at specific musculoskeletal regions (hip flexion, hip extension, and plantar flexion, as well as anterior and lateral pelvic tilts, pelvic rotation, and joint range of motion (hip, knee, and ankle)) were also assessed in the present study. Multiple separate 2 × 2 Factorial Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were used to examine the effects of TC on the abovementioned outcomes between baseline and posttest in the two groups. When compared to those in the control group, older female adults who experienced the 8-week Tai chi intervention demonstrated significant improvements in most of the outcome measures. More specifically, positive changes in the TC group were found, including gait parameter (p < 0.001 for all; stride length (1.12 to 1.24, +8.6%), gait speed (1.06 to 1.21, +13.9%), stance phase (66.3 to 61.8, −5.5%), swing phase (33.7 to 38.4, +10.1%), double support time (0.33 to 0.26, −21.1%)), flexibility-related outcomes (hip flexion (90.0 to 91.9, 22.6%, p < 0.0001), single hip flexor (6.0 to 2.0, −61.5%, p = 0.0386), and plantar flexion (41.6 to 49.7, +17.5%, p < 0.0001)), and range of motion (anterior pelvic tilt (9.5 to 6.2, −34.7%, p < 0.0001), lateral pelvic tilt (6.6 to 8.3, +23.8%, p = 0.0102), pelvic rotation (10.3 to 14.7, 28.2%, p < 0.0001), hip range of motion (29.8 to 32.9, +13.5%, p = 0.001), and ankle range of motion (28.0 to 32.6, +11.1%, p < 0.0001)). The present study supports the notion that the practice of TC has a positive effect on healthy older female adults in improving gait parameters and flexibility, counteracting the normal functional degeneration due to age.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/

 

Balance and Fitness in the Elderly and Tai Chi Training

Balance and Fitness in the Elderly and Tai Chi Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise that can help older adults improve their balance and lower their fall risk. And by reducing their risk of falls, seniors can lower their odds of suffering a debilitating fracture.” – Harvard Health Letter

 

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. In the U.S. one third of people over 65 fall each year and 2.5 million are treated in emergency rooms for injuries produced by falls. About 1% of falls result in deaths making it the leading cause of death due to injury among the elderly.

 

Falls, with or without injury, also carry a heavy quality of life impact. A growing number of older adults, fear falling and, as a result, limit their activities and social engagements. This can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. These studies, however, employ Tai Chi training over long time frames of 6 months to a year. It is not known if shorter term training would also be effective.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of 12 Weeks of Tai Chi Chuan Training on Balance and Functional Fitness in Older Japanese Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968980/ ), Takeshima and colleagues recruited older adults averaging 73 years of age and assigned them to either receive 12 weeks of Tai Chi training for 2 days per week for 60 minutes or to a no-treatment control group. They were measured before and after training for static balance, dynamic balance, and functional fitness, including upper and lower body strength, balance and agility, upper and lower body flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

 

Contrary to longer-term studies, they did not find any significant differences between the Tai Chi training and no-treatment control groups in static balance, dynamic balance, or functional fitness.  This lack of benefit of Tai Chi training may well be due to the relative shortness of the 12-week program relative to previous studies employing 6-month to one year trainings. Indeed, previous research by Holmes and colleagues also employing a 12 week program could not detect any overall improvement in balance, but could detect a subtle improvement in postural-respiratory coupling. This may be a precursor to improvements in overall balance. So, 12-weeks of training may produce subtle changes that, if continued over a longer period of time, will lead to improvements in balance.

 

Tai Chi movement patterns can be fairly complex and the elderly may have difficulty learning them over a few sessions. Indeed, it has been reported that it takes 8 to 16 sessions before the patterns are mastered. So, there may need for longer periods of training to master the technique and benefit from it. Hence, there is a need for further research on the amount of Tai Chi training needed to improve balance and reduce falls in the elderly.

 

“I’ve always been clumsy, so Tai Chi has offered me the opportunity to be able to think more about what I’m doing, pay attention to what I’m doing, and not fall. I’m able to catch myself if I trip over something because of Tai Chi,” – Velma Chapman

 

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

 

Takeshima, N., Islam, M. M., Kato, Y., Koizumi, D., Narita, M., Kitabayashi, Y., … Rogers, M. E. (2017). Effects of 12 Weeks of Tai Chi Chuan Training on Balance and Functional Fitness in Older Japanese Adults. Sports, 5(2), 32. http://doi.org/10.3390/sports5020032

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of Tai Chi Chuan on static and dynamic balance, and functional fitness in older adults. Forty-nine volunteers were divided into an exercise group (EX: 9 men and 16 women, average age 72 ± 5 years) and control group (13 men and 11 women, average age 73 ± 6 years). The EX participated in a 12-week supervised exercise program (60 min/day, 2 days/week) that consisted of 10-min warm-up and stretching, 40-min Tai Chi Chuan exercise (long-form Yang style with 108 movements), and 10-min cool-down/relaxation exercises. The control group was asked to not change their physical activity habits. Static (sway velocity standing on firm or foam surfaces with eyes open or closed) and dynamic balance (limits of stability (LOS)), as well as functional fitness measures of body mass; upper- and lower-body strength; and flexibility, mobility, and aerobic fitness were taken before and after the intervention. After the 12-week Tai Chi Chuan exercise program, there were no improvements in any functional fitness or balance variable although components of LOS tended to increase (13.1%, p = 0.052). These results indicate that 12 weeks of Tai Chi Chuan exercise has no significant effect on balance and functional fitness parameters in older Japanese adults.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968980/

 

Improve Brain Size and Function in Healthy Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Brain Size and Function in Healthy Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Epidemiologic studies have shown repeatedly that individuals who engage in more physical exercise or are more socially active have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The current findings suggest that this may be a result of growth and preservation of critical regions of the brain affected by this illness.” –  James Mortimer

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 and to increase brain matter in the elderly. In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi Intervention on Healthy Elderly by Means of Neuroimaging and EEG: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915963/ ), Pan and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the 11 published research articles that examine the effects of Tai Chi practice on the brain of the elderly.

 

They find that there was 1 published study reporting that long-term Tai Chi practitioners have a thicker cortex in the brain. This is interesting but it cannot be determined if people who practice Tai Chi are simply people who have thicker cortexes. Other studies using functional Magnetic Imaging (fMRI) indicate that Tai Chi results in increased connectivity between brain structures and increased functional activity in the brain, so there is greater activity and signals are better sent from one area to another. Still other studies employing electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings indicate that Tai Chi produces greater electrical activity in the frontal areas of the cortex that are known to be involved in high level cognitive function (executive function)

 

One weakness in the studies is that the comparison groups are most often sedentary, not engaging in any exercise. As a result, it cannot be determined if the changes in the brain are due to Tai Chi per se or whether any form of exercise might have a similar effect. Future research should employ comparisons to groups performing other exercises.

 

Nevertheless, the results are encouraging; suggesting that Tai Chi can alter the brain in ways that may improve memory and cognitive performance. Significantly, Tai Chi practice is gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, is 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. Also, it can be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice may be ideal for slowing or reversing age-related deterioration of the brain and the related cognitive decline.

 

So, improve brain size and function in healthy elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“The ability to reverse this trend with physical exercise and increased mental activity implies that it may be possible to delay the onset of dementia in older persons through interventions that have many physical and mental health benefits.” –  James Mortimer

 

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

 

Pan, Z., Su, X., Fang, Q., Hou, L., Lee, Y., Chen, C. C., … Kim, M.-L. (2018). The Effects of Tai Chi Intervention on Healthy Elderly by Means of Neuroimaging and EEG: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 10, 110. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2018.00110

 

Abstract

Aging is a process associated with a decline in cognitive and motor functions, which can be attributed to neurological changes in the brain. Tai Chi, a multimodal mind-body exercise, can be practiced by people across all ages. Previous research identified effects of Tai Chi practice on delaying cognitive and motor degeneration. Benefits in behavioral performance included improved fine and gross motor skills, postural control, muscle strength, and so forth. Neural plasticity remained in the aging brain implies that Tai Chi-associated benefits may not be limited to the behavioral level. Instead, neurological changes in the human brain play a significant role in corresponding to the behavioral improvement. However, previous studies mainly focused on the effects of behavioral performance, leaving neurological changes largely unknown. This systematic review summarized extant studies that used brain imaging techniques and EEG to examine the effects of Tai Chi on older adults. Eleven articles were eligible for the final review. Three neuroimaging techniques including fMRI (N = 6), EEG (N = 4), and MRI (N = 1), were employed for different study interests. Significant changes were reported on subjects’ cortical thickness, functional connectivity and homogeneity of the brain, and executive network neural function after Tai Chi intervention. The findings suggested that Tai Chi intervention give rise to beneficial neurological changes in the human brain. Future research should develop valid and convincing study design by applying neuroimaging techniques to detect effects of Tai Chi intervention on the central nervous system of older adults. By integrating neuroimaging techniques into randomized controlled trials involved with Tai Chi intervention, researchers can extend the current research focus from behavioral domain to neurological level.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915963/

 

Improve Psychological Health in the Elderly with Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Health in the Elderly with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, loneliness, depression, and anxiety are considerable risk factors for residents. Mindfulness may help elders to find peace within themselves with daily practice.” – GoldenCares

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development but regret their decline during aging. As we age, there are systematic progressive declines in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities and results in impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Aging also results in changes in mental health. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased loneliness, worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to improve mental health in the elderly. In addition, more and more elderly individuals are residing in continuing care retirement communities. Hence it is important to find treatment methods amenable to implementation in these facilities.

 

In today’s Research News article “An Adapted Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for Elders in a Continuing Care Retirement Community: Quantitative & Qualitative Results from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5973835/ ), Moss and colleagues recruited elderly residents, predominantly female (82%), of a continuing care retirement community. They were 62 to 92 years of age. They were randomly assigned to either receive an adapted Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program or to a wait-list control condition. The MBSR program was presented for 2 hours, once a week, for 8 weeks with 30-minute daily home practice. It consisted of the standard meditation, body scan, and yoga practices. But, yoga practice was changed to chair yoga to be better practiced by the elderly. The participants were measured before and after the treatment for acceptability of the program including attendance and rate of home practice, health, psychological flexibility, mindfulness, self-compassion, anxiety, depression, and somatization.

 

They found a high degree of acceptability of the program with only 20% dropping out and the participants averaged 5 days a week of home practice. In comparison to the baseline and wait-list control group, the participants who received the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) had significantly improved psychological flexibility and reduced physical limitations. In comparison to baseline the MBSR participants had significantly greater observing mindfulness, mental health, and vitality, and significantly less emotional limitations. The participants reflected that after the training they were better able to attend to the present moment, had greater well-being, self-compassion and kindness, and reduced self-judgement and stress.

 

These are wonderful results that demonstrate that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an acceptable, safe, and effective program to enhance the psychological health of elderly residents of a continuing care retirement community. The adaptations to the program to recognize the physical limitations of the elderly did not appear to blunt its’ effectiveness and perhaps made it more acceptable. Future research should employ an active control condition, such as aerobic exercise to better control for confounding variables. Regardless, the MBSR program would appear to have great benefits for the aging population.

 

So, improve psychological health in the elderly with mindfulness.

 

“Often elderly people can live uncomfortable, lonely, quiet lives. Teaching them to pay attention moment by moment, on purpose but without judgement, to each of their experiences, can improve of the quality of their lives, based on the demonstrated effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in many forms of therapy. Mindfulness practice has a definite positive impact on issues such as recurrent depression, stress, anxiety, chronic physical pain and loneliness. For the elderly, chronic health conditions, the loss of self-determination in their daily lives, isolation, and a lack of interaction with the outside world can understandably take much of the joy out of life.” – MyHomecare

 

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

 

Moss, A. S., Reibel, D. K., Greeson, J. M., Thapar, A., Bubb, R., Salmon, J., & Newberg, A. B. (2015). An Adapted Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program for Elders in a Continuing Care Retirement Community: Quantitative & Qualitative Results from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Applied Gerontology : The Official Journal of the Southern Gerontological Society, 34(4), 518–538. http://doi.org/10.1177/0733464814559411

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to test the feasibility and effectiveness of an adapted 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program for elders in a continuing care community. This mixed-methods study used both quantitative and qualitative measures. A randomized wait-list control design was used for the quantitative aspect of the study. Thirty-nine elderly were randomized to MBSR (n=20) or a wait-list control group (n=19); mean age 82 years. Both groups completed pre-post measures of health related quality of life, acceptance and psychological flexibility, facets of mindfulness, self-compassion, and psychological distress. A subset of MBSR participants completed qualitative interviews. MBSR participants showed significantly greater improvement in acceptance and psychological flexibility and in role limitations due to physical health. In the qualitative interviews, MBSR participants reported increased awareness, less judgment and greater self-compassion. Study results demonstrate the feasibility and potential effectiveness of an adapted MBSR program in promoting mind-body health for elders.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5973835/