Improve Functional Fitness with Yoga

Improve Functional Fitness with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“All forms of exercise are important for the body. The right amount of it keeps us in shape, improves longevity, and certainly keeps me sane if nobody else. Yoga is so much more than simple stretches, and it’s certainly not just for flexible people who can already wrap their legs around their heads. Yoga is about creating balance, strength, flexibility and relaxation in the body through a series of postures, movements and breathing patterns.” – Victoria Adams

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of benefits for psychological and physical health. It is both an exercise and a mind-body practice that stresses both mental attention to present moment movements, breath control, and flexibility, range of motion, and balance. It has been shown to improve balance and flexibility in older individuals.  It is safe and can be practiced by anyone from children to seniors. Recently, there have been a number of high profile athletes who have adopted a yoga practice to improve their athletic performance. But, the lack of exercise that is often associated with aging is a major problem. It is not known whether yoga practice is as good as traditional exercise programs in improving the overall functional fitness of sedentary older adults and slow the age related physical decline.

 

In today’s Research News article “Yoga Is as Good as Stretching–Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864160/ ), Gothe and McAuley recruited older sedentary adults over 55 years of age and randomly assigned them to engage in either 8 weeks, 3 times per week, Hatha yoga practice or stretching–strengthening exercises. The Senior Fitness test was administered before and after training. It measured strength, agility, balance, endurance, flexibility, and gait speed.

 

They found that both the yoga and stretching–strengthening exercise practices produced significant improvements in the older participants’ functional fitness for all measured parameters. So, yoga practice produced as good improvements in fitness as more traditional exercise. In, addition, yoga practice was found to produce significantly better leg balance than stretching–strengthening exercise. This is important as problems with balance contributes to falls in the elderly which is a major contributor to poor health and mortality.

 

These are important and interesting results that suggest that older individuals can choose between yoga and more traditional exercise to improve their fitness and slow their physical decline. In general, yoga practice has been found to be safe and effective and if practiced with groups it can also be more fun and tend to offset the social isolation experienced by the elderly. Hence, yoga practice may be an excellent choice to maintain fitness during aging.

 

So, improve functional fitness with yoga.

 

“Yoga promotes physical health in multiple different ways. Some of them derive from better stress management. Others come more directly from the physical movements and postures in yoga, which help promote flexibility and reduce joint pain.” – Harvard 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

 

Gothe, N. P., & McAuley, E. (2016). Yoga Is as Good as Stretching–Strengthening Exercises in Improving Functional Fitness Outcomes: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 71(3), 406–411. http://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glv127

 

Abstract

Background.

Despite yoga’s popularity, few clinical trials have employed rigorous methodology to systematically explore its functional benefits compared with more established forms of exercise. The objective of this study was to compare the functional benefits of yoga with the conventional stretching–strengthening exercises recommended for adults.

Methods.

Sedentary healthy adults ( N = 118; Mage = 62.0) participated in an 8-week (three times a week for 1 hour) randomized controlled trial, which consisted of a Hatha yoga group ( n = 61) and a stretching–strengthening exercise group ( n = 57). Standardized functional fitness tests assessing balance, strength, flexibility, and mobility were administered at baseline and postintervention.

Results.

A repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance showed a significant time effect for measures of balance [ F (3,18) = 4.88, p < .01, partial η 2 = .45], strength [ F (2,19) = 15.37, p < .001, partial η 2 = .62], flexibility [ F (4,17) = 8.86, p < .001, partial η 2 = .68], and mobility [ F (2,19) = 8.54, p < .002, partial η 2= .47]. Both groups showed significant improvements on measures of balance (left–right leg and four square step); strength (chair stands and arm curls); flexibility (back scratch and sit-and-reach); and mobility (gait speed and 8-feet up and go), with partial η 2 ranging from .05 to .47.

Conclusions.

These data suggest that regular yoga practice is just as effective as stretching–strengthening exercises in improving functional fitness. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine functional benefits of yoga in comparison with stretching–strengthening exercises in sedentary, healthy, community-dwelling older adults. These findings have clinical implications as yoga is a more amenable form of exercise than strengthening exercises as it requires minimal equipment and can be adapted for individuals with lower levels of functioning or disabilities.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5864160/

 

Improve Arthritis in Older Adults with Seated Yoga

Improve Arthritis in Older Adults with Seated Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Chair yoga may help to reduce pain in older adults suffering from arthritis. Based around the ancient form of exercise, it allows people with reduced mobility to also take part. It helps to boost the strength and flexibility of older people and could become an effective treatment for those with the debilitating condition.” Stephen Matthews

 

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative joint disease that is the most common form of arthritis. It produces pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. It is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., with about 43% of arthritis sufferers limited in mobility and about a third having limitations that affect their ability to perform their work. Knee osteoarthritis effects 5% of adults over 25 years of age and 12% of those over 65. It is painful and disabling. Its causes are varied including, hereditary, injury including sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, infection, or from being overweight.

 

There are no cures for knee osteoarthritis. Treatments are primarily symptomatic, including weight loss, exercise, braces, pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, arthroscopic knee surgery, or even knee replacement. Gentle movements of the joints with exercise and physical therapy appear to be helpful in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis. This suggests that alternative and complementary practices that involve gentle knee movements may be useful for treatment.

 

Mindfulness practices such as Tai Chi and Qigong  and yoga have been shown to reduce the physical symptoms of knee osteoarthritisYoga, has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions, including arthritis. But, people with lower extremity osteoarthritis have difficulty with balance making standing postures problematic. So, it would seem reasonable to look into the effectiveness of yoga practice performed while sitting in a chair in treating knee osteoarthritis.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357158/ ), Park and colleagues recruited older adults (>65 years of age) with osteoarthritis of the lower extremity joints; hip, knee; ankle, and foot. They were randomly assigned to either receive health education or seated Hatha yoga practice. Both Health Education and yoga was practiced for 45 minutes twice a week for 8 weeks and home practice was encouraged. The participants were measured before and after treatment and at a 1-month and 3-month follow-up for pain interference in everyday activities, fatigue, balance, walking speed, pain, and functional ability.

 

They found that after the 8-weeks of practice and at the 1- and 3-month follow-ups, the yoga group had significantly greater reductions in pain, pain interference in daily activities, fatigue, and walking speed. There were no significant adverse events observed. Hence, practicing yoga while seated was well tolerated and safe and produced significant improvements in the symptoms of lower extremity osteoarthritis in elderly adults. This suggests that seated yoga practice may be a welcome, safe and effective alternative to pharmacologic or surgical treatment for osteoarthritis in the elderly.

 

So, improve arthritis in older adults with seated Yoga.

 

“The potential impact of this study on public health is high, as this program provides an approach for keeping community-dwelling elders active even when they cannot participate in traditional exercise that challenges their balance,” – Patricia Liehr

 

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

 

Park, J., McCaffrey, R., Newman, D., Liehr, P., & Ouslander, J. G. (2017). A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(3), 592–597. http://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14717

 

Abstract

Objectives

To determine effects of Sit ‘N’ Fit Chair Yoga, compared to a Health Education program (HEP), on pain and physical function in older adults with lower extremity osteoarthritis (OA) who could not participate in standing exercise

Design

Two-arm randomized controlled trial

Setting

One HUD senior housing facility and one day senior center in south Florida

Participants

Community-dwelling older adults (N = 131) were randomly assigned to chair yoga (n = 66) or HEP (n = 65). Thirteen dropped after assignment but prior to the intervention; 6 dropped during the intervention; 106 of 112 completed at least 12 of 16 sessions (95% retention rate).

Interventions

Participants attended either chair yoga or HEP. Both interventions consisted of twice-weekly 45-minute sessions for 8 weeks.

Measurements

Primary: pain, pain interference; secondary: balance, gait speed, fatigue, functional ability measured at baseline, after 4 weeks of intervention, at the end of the 8-week intervention, and post-intervention (1 and 3 months).

Results

The chair yoga group showed greater reduction in pain interference during the intervention (p = .01), sustained through 3 months (p = .022). WOMAC pain (p = .048), gait speed (p = .024), and fatigue (p = .037) were improved in the yoga group during the intervention (p = .048) but improvements were not sustained post intervention. Chair yoga had no effect on balance.

Conclusion

An 8-week chair yoga program was associated with reduction in pain, pain interference, and fatigue, and improvement in gait speed, but only the effects on pain interference were sustained 3 months post intervention. Chair yoga should be further explored as a nonpharmacologic intervention for older people with OA in the lower extremities.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357158/

 

Increase Brain Matter and Memory in Aging with Tai Chi

 

Increase Brain Matter and Memory in Aging with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi can be used as exercise to improve the body, as well as reversing the natural tendency for the brain to shrink with age.” – Functional Aging Institute

 

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.

 

Hence, there is some hope for age related cognitive decline, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of cognitive decline and lower the chances of dementia. For example, contemplative practices such as meditationyoga, and Tai Chi and Qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve cognitive processes while gentle mindful exercises such as Tai Chi and Qigong have been shown to slow age related cognitive decline. It would seem reasonable to hypothesize that Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices might decrease age related decreases in cognitive ability and degeneration of the nervous system.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin increase grey matter volume in older adults: a brain imaging study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5659386/ ), Tao and colleagues recruited healthy sedentary older adults (50-70 years of age) and randomly assigned them to receive either Tai Chi practice, Baduanjin practice (a very similar practice to Tai Chi), or no-treatment. Practice occurred for 12 weeks, 5 days per week, for 1 hour. Before and after training the participants underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of their brains. They were also measured for memory ability.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and control participants, the Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice participants had significant increases in the amount of grey matter in the left insula, left putamen, left parahippocampus/hippocampus, left amygdala, and left inferior temporal lobe. Hence, Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice appeared to produce increases in neural tissue. In addition, the Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice participants had significant increases in overall memory ability and visual reproduction memory. These improvements in memory were related to the increases in grey matter, with large increases in neural tissue associated with large improvements in memory. Hence, Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice not only increased neural tissue and memory, but the increases in both changed together in the same direction.

 

Caution must be taken in interpreting these results as the control condition was inactive. As a result, it cannot be determined if Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice per se or any form of exercise could produce comparable benefits. Further research is needed employing other forms of exercise to compare to the effects of Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice.

 

Nonetheless, these results are interesting and exciting. They suggest that Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice can reduce or possibly reverse brain degeneration and cognitive decline associated with aging. By engaging in these mindful movement practices aging individuals appear to preserve their brains and their mental ability. In addition, the fact that these practices are safe, convenient, low cost, and social suggests that they can be widely applied to the aging population.

 

So, increase brain matter and memory in aging with Tai Chi.

 

“Keep your brain younger longer by adding tai chi to your workout routine.” – Linda Melone

 

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

 

Tao, J., Liu, J., Liu, W., Huang, J., Xue, X., Chen, X., … Kong, J. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin increase grey matter volume in older adults: a brain imaging study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 60(2), 389–400. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-170477

 

Abstract

The aim of this study is to investigate and compare how 12-weeks of Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin exercise can modulate brain structure and memory function in older adults. Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) and memory function measurements (Wechsler Memory Scale-Chinese revised, WMS-CR)were applied at both the beginning and end of the study. Results showed that both Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin could significantly increase grey matter volume (GMV) in the insula, medial temporal lobe (MTL), and putamen after 12-weeks of exercise. No significant differences were observed in grey matter volume (GMV) between the Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin groups. We also found that compared to healthy controls, Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin significantly improved visual reproduction subscores on the WMS-CR. Baduanjin also improved mental control, recognition, touch and comprehension memory subscores of the WMS-CR compared to the control group. Memory quotient (MQ)and visual reproduction subscores were both associated with GMV increases in the putamen and hippocampus. Our results demonstrate the potential of Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin exercise for the prevention of memory deficits in older adults.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5659386/

Improve Cognition in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Cognition in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi has consistent, small effects on improving cognitive performance in both healthy older adults and older adults with some cognitive impairment.” – PM Wayne

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including cognitive function (thinking ability) and motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical and cognitive decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of tai chi on cognition and instrumental activities of daily living in community dwelling older people with mild cognitive impairment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5797349/ ), Siu and Lee examine the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice for elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment. They recruited elderly individuals (> 60 years of age) with mild cognitive impairment from 4 community centers for the elderly. Participants from two community centers were randomly assigned to a no-treatment control condition or to receive 16 weeks of Tai Chi training for 1-hour twice a week. They were measured before and after training for cognitive ability and daily living activities; including using telephone, shopping, preparing food, doing house-keeping and laundry, using transportation, managing finances, handling medication, and doing handyman work.

 

They found that the Tai Chi practice group compared to baseline and the control group had significant improvements in cognitive ability and in the performance of daily activities. These are important findings. With an aging population, the maintenance of ability to perform daily activities may reduce the burden and cost of caregivering. In addition, the improvements in cognitive function may reduce the incidence of dementia and allow for better quality of life in the elderly. Importantly, these benefits can be produced with a convenient, inexpensive, safe, and fun social activity.

 

So, improve cognition in the Elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“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 MsPherson

 

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

 

Mei-yi Siu, Diana T. F. Lee. Effects of tai chi on cognition and instrumental activities of daily living in community dwelling older people with mild cognitive impairment. BMC Geriatr. 2018; 18: 37. Published online 2018 Feb 2. doi: 10.1186/s12877-018-0720-8

 

Abstract

Background

Cognitive impairment places older adults at high risk of functional disability in their daily-life activities, and thus affecting their quality of life. This study aimed to examine the effects of Tai Chi on general cognitive functions and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) in community-dwelling older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in Hong Kong.

Methods

The study adopted a multi-site nonequivalent control-group pretest-posttest design. 160 community-dwelling older people, aged ≥60, with MCI, from four community elderly centers participated in the study. The intervention group (IG, n = 80) received training in the Yang-style simple form of Tai Chi, at a frequency of two lessons per week for 16 weeks. Each lesson lasted for one hour. The control group (CG, n = 80) had no treatment regime and joined different recreational activity groups in community centers as usual within the study period. Outcome measures included measures of global cognitive status and IADL. The Chinese version of the Mini-Mental State Examination (CMMSE) was used for global cognitive assessment. The Hong Kong Chinese version of Lawton’s Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL-CV) was used to assess the participants’ IADL levels. General Estimating Equations (GEE) was used to examine each of the outcome variables for the two groups at the two study time points (the baseline and at the end of the study). Meanwhile, minimum detectable change (MDC) was calculated to estimate the magnitude of changes required to eradicate the possibility of measurement error of outcome measures.

Results

Seventy four participants in the IG and 71 participants in the CG completed the study. With adjustments for differences in age, education, marital status and living conditions, the findings revealed that the participants in the IG scored significantly better on the CMMSE test (P = 0.001), and the instrumental ADL questionnaire (P = 0.004). However, those scores changes did not exceed the limits of the respective MDCs in the study, the possibility of measurement variation due to error could not be excluded.

Conclusion

Tai Chi may be an effective strategy to enhance cognitive health and maintain functional abilities in instrumental ADL in older people with MCI.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5797349/

Slow Mental Decline in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Slow Mental Decline in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“improvement of heart function combined with increased muscular power meant that the martial art should be considered the preferred technique for elderly people to maintain good health.” – The Telegraph

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including cognitive function (thinking ability) and motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical and cognitive decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research and found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Improves Cognition and Plasma BDNF in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”  Sungkarat and colleagues recruited elderly participants with mild cognitive impairments and randomly assigned them to either receive educational instruction related to cognitive impairment and fall prevention or practice Tai Chi at home guided by a 50-minute video, 3 times per week, for 6 months. They were measured at the beginning and end of training for cognitive performance, including memory, visuospatial ability, and executive function, and plasma markers for inflammation and neuroprotection, including plasma BDNF, TNF-α, and IL-10 levels.

 

They found that compared to baseline and control participants, the elderly who practiced Tai Chi had significantly improved levels of cognitive function, including improvements in memory and thinking ability (executive function). In addition, Tai Chi practice was found to significantly increase the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a neurotrophic factor that works to protect the brain from deterioration and promote the growth of brain cells. Hence, they found that Tai Chi practice reduces cognitive decline with aging and increases neuroprotection.

 

The cognitive decline with aging has been associated with degeneration of neural tissues. On the other hand, mindfulness practices have been found to change the brain and protect it against age related decline. The present results add further evidence that mindfulness practices, Tai Chi  in particular, improves memory and cognitive performance and promotes neuroprotection in the elderly. The attractiveness of the low intensity, low cost, convenient, and socially fun nature of Tai Chi practice makes it a great treatment for the prevention of age related decline.

 

So, slow mental decline in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week.” – Science Daily

 

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

 

Somporn Sungkarat, PhD, SirinunBoripuntakul, PhD, Sirinart Kumfu, PhD, Stephen R. Lord, PhD, Nipon Chattipakorn, MD, PhD. Tai Chi Improves Cognition and Plasma BDNF in Older Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. First Published January 20, 2018, https://doi-org.ezproxy.shsu.edu/10.1177/15459683177536

 

Abstract

Background. Effects of Tai Chi (TC) on specific cognitive function and mechanisms by which TC may improve cognition in older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (a-MCI) remain unknown. Objective. To examine the effects of TC on cognitive functions and plasma biomarkers (brain-derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF], tumor necrosis factor-α [TNF-α], and interleukin-10 [IL-10]) in a-MCI. Methods. A total of 66 older adults with a-MCI (mean age = 67.9 years) were randomized to either a TC (n = 33) or a control group (n = 33). Participants in the TC group learned TC with a certified instructor and then practiced at home for 50 min/session, 3 times/wk for 6 months. The control group received educational material that covered information related to cognition. The primary outcome was cognitive performance, including Logical Memory (LM) delayed recall, Block Design, Digit Span, and Trail Making Test B minus A (TMT B-A). The secondary outcomes were plasma biomarkers, including BDNF, TNF-α, and IL-10. Results. At the end of the trial, performance on the LM and TMT B-A was significantly better in the TC group compared with the control group after adjusting for age, gender, and education (P < .05). Plasma BDNF level was significantly increased for the TC group, whereas the other outcome measures were similar between the 2 groups after adjusting for age and gender (P < .05). Conclusions. TC training significantly improved memory and the mental switching component of executive function in older adults with a-MCI, possibly via an upregulation of BDNF.

http://journals.sagepub.com.ezproxy.shsu.edu/doi/full/10.1177/1545968317753682

Reduce Inflammation in elderly Women with Yoga

Reduce Inflammation in elderly Women with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Inflammaging has been associated with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stress, depression, and a weakened immune system. Several recent studies suggest that yoga could slow the harmful physical effects of stress and inflammaging.” – Marylynn Wei

 

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 real 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. Aging is associated with a decline in immune system function and therefore an increase in chronic inflammation. As a result, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to chronic inflammation. So, it would make sense to test the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in the levels of inflammation in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Elderly-customized hatha yoga effects on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683994/ ), Kim and Ju Examined this issue by recruiting 14 healthy elderly women between the ages of 70 and 80 and randomly assigning 7 of the women to no treatment and 7 to receive a 10-week, 3 times per week for 60 minutes Hatha yoga program. The Hatha yoga poses were modified for the elderly performing many of the poses while sitting in a chair. Blood was drawn at the beginning and end of the program and assayed for inflammation markers of albumin, white blood cell count, fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

 

They found that there were no significant changes in the inflammation markers for the control group, but the Hatha yoga group showed significant changes signaling reduced inflammation. These changes included significantly increased albumin levels and decreased vascular inflammation markers of fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. So, engaging in Hatha yoga practice appeared to reduce inflammation in these elderly women.

 

The results should be interpreted carefully as there was not an active control condition. So, it cannot be determined if the yoga practice per se was responsible for the improvements or simply any gentle exercise would produce comparable benefits. But, the fact that statistically significant findings were present with only 7 women in the yoga group is remarkable and suggests that the effects are robust. Future research should include men and have an active control condition, perhaps treadmill walking or similar gentle aerobic exercise.

 

So, reduce inflammation in elderly women with Yoga.

 

There’s also good news for those of us who have a regular yoga practice. Several studies now report that a regular yoga practice brings down the levels of stress hormones that promote inflammation, lowers the levels of a number of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body and brings down inflammation that is beneficial in conditions like arthritis, reduces a subset of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines thereby relieving severe pain seen in diseases like fibromyalgia, and Inhibits inflammation that in turn weakens and even kills cancerous cells in people with cancer.” -Ram Rao

 

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

 

Kim, S., & Ju, S. (2017). Elderly-customized hatha yoga effects on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 29(10), 1708–1711. http://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.29.1708

 

Abstract

[Purpose] The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the application of elderly-customized hatha yoga on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women. [Subjects and Methods] This research was conducted with 14 elderly women, between 70 and 80 years old, divided into an elderly-customized hatha yoga group (n=7) and a control group (n=7). The application group participated in a hatha yoga program designed to be elderly-friendly for 10 weeks. At the end of the program, the vascular inflammation factors were measured, including the albumin, white blood cell count, fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). [Results] In the hatha yoga group, the albumin increased significantly after the application, when compared to the level before the application, while the fibrinogen, hs-CRP, and ESR decreased significantly. In the control group, the vascular inflammation factor levels before and after the application period were not significantly different. [Conclusion] Based on the results of this study, the application of elderly-customized hatha yoga created positive changes in the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683994/

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the answers we’re looking for when it comes to ending memory loss could be gained by simply doing KK for 12 minutes each morning? Perhaps that magic bullet is already here, waiting to be discovered in each and every one of us after all. Now, wouldn’t that be grand?” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. It cannot be avoided. Our mental abilities may also decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. These are called age related cognitive decline. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. These cognitive declines markedly increase the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The declines occur along with sleep disruptions declines in mental health and quality of life, which in turn, appear to exacerbate the decline.

 

There is some hope, however, for those who are prone to deterioration as there is evidence that these cognitive declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Indeed, mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: 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/PMC5649740/ ), Innes and colleagues recruited community living adults over 50 years of age and experiencing memory problems and slight cognitive decline. They were randomly assigned to 12-week, 12 minutes per day, programs of classical music listening or Kirtan Kriya meditation, performed while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. At the first session the participants received 35-minute instruction on relaxation and their specific program and then provided DVDs for daily home practice. Kirtan Kriya meditation included signing a mantra, successive finger touching and visualization exercises. After the 12 weeks of practice participants were free to continue practicing if they wished. They were measured before and after the 12-week programs and 14 weeks later for body size, sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, mood, memory, and cognitive performance.

 

Retention and participation were high, with 92% of the music listening participants and 88% of the meditation participants completing the program. Participants completed 93% of the required session and 73% of the optional sessions during the second 14-week period. This indicates that the participants found the programs enjoyable and worth their time and effort.

 

Over the 12-week program, both groups showed significant improvements in sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, and mood. These improvements were either sustained or further improved over the subsequent 14 weeks. The meditation group had significantly greater improvements than the music listening group in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and mental health quality of life. In addition, the greater the improvements in mood, stress, sleep, well-being, and quality of life, the greater the improvements in memory function. Hence, the two forms of relaxation produced improvements in the participants well-being which were related to improvements in memory. But, meditation had a greater impact then music listening.

 

These results are quite remarkable that such simple practices for only 12 minutes per day can have such profound effects on the well-being of aging individuals with slight cognitive decline. This could potentially delay of lower the likelihood that the decline will continue into dementia of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important that the effects were lasting and participation high, both of which suggest that the meditation program can be easily and inexpensively applied to large groups of community-based aging individuals.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in the elderly with mild memory loss with meditation

 

“Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can affect up to 20% of the population at any one time—and half of them will progress to full-on dementia. Now, a recent study . . .  finds as little as 15 minutes of daily meditation can significantly slow that progression.” – Nina Elias

 

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

 

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 52(4), 1277–1298. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week.” – Science Daily

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume and activity of the brain as the years go by. Researchers 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, yoga and Tai Chi have all been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. A practice, similar to Tai Chi, Baduanjin is a mind-body training consisted of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. But it has not been evaluated for application to aging individuals.

Because Tai Chi and Baduanjin are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/ ), Tao and colleagues recruited older sedentary adults (50 to 70 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control who were provided health information or to practice either Tai Chi or Baduanjin mind-body training for 12 weeks, one hour per day, five days per week. Participants were measured before and after training for memory and cognitive functions. They also underwent functional-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

They found that the Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups did not differ, but, in comparison to baseline and the education control group they had significant (18%-24%) increases in memory performance after training. The brain scans demonstrated that, in comparison to the education control group the Baduanjin group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex while the Tai Chi group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Importantly, they found that the greater the increase in activity in the Prefrontal Areas the greater the improvement in memory.

 

Hence, the results showed that both mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin improved memory in older adults in association with increases in Prefrontal Lobe activity. The Prefrontal cortex has been associated previously with memory, attention, and high-level thinking (executive function). The present results suggest that the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin act to improve memory in older adults by producing neuroplastic changes that increase activity in the brain’s Prefrontal Areas. Interestingly, the results also show that the two mind-body practices may act on different mechanisms in the brain; with Tai Chi acting on the medial areas of the Prefrontal Cortex while Baduanjin acting on the Dorsal Lateral areas.

 

Memory deteriorates with aging and this can progress to severe memory impairments and dementia. The results of this study suggest that engagement in the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin may be able to slow or prevent that decline by strengthening brain processing in the Prefrontal Cortex. Since both Tai Chi and Baduanjin are simple and safe exercises that can be easily learned and practiced at home alone or in groups, they are economical and scalable practices to improve memory during aging. As such, they should be recommended for older adults.

 

So, improve memory and frontal lobe function in older adults with mind-body practices.

 

“Because Tai Chi can be done indoors or out, and as a group activity or by yourself, it suits both people who like to work out alone at home and those who prefer to get their exercise in a social setting.” – Mark Huntsman

 

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

 

Tao, J., Chen, X., Liu, J., Egorova, N., Xue, X., Liu, W., … Kong, J. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 514. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00514

 

Abstract

Age-related cognitive decline is a significant public health concern. Recently, non-pharmacological methods, such as physical activity and mental training practices, have emerged as promising low-cost methods to slow the progression of age-related memory decline. In this study, we investigated if Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and Baduanjin modulated the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) in different frequency bands (low-frequency: 0.01–0.08 Hz; slow-5: 0.01–0.027 Hz; slow-4: 0.027–0.073 Hz) and improved memory function. Older adults were recruited for the randomized study. Participants in the TCC and Baduanjin groups received 12 weeks of training (1 h/day for 5 days/week). Participants in the control group received basic health education. Each subject participated in memory tests and fMRI scans at the beginning and end of the experiment. We found that compared to the control group: (1) TCC and Baduanjin groups demonstrated significant improvements in memory function; (2) TCC increased fALFF in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands; and (3) Baduanjin increased fALFF in the medial PFC in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands. This increase was positively associated with memory function improvement in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands across the TCC and Baduanjin groups. Our results suggest that TCC and Baduanjin may work through different brain mechanisms to prevent memory decline due to aging.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/

Improve Thinking in Older Adults with Tai Chi

Improve Thinking in Older Adults with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It may be no surprise that Tai Chi has physical benefits – after all, it involves movement. Well, did you know that Tai Chi may also have mental benefits? Specifically, . . . significant increases in the brain size, memory and thinking of older adults who practiced Tai Chi compared to other groups in the study.” – Tai Chi for Health

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including cognitive function (thinking ability) and motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical and cognitive decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “The benefits of Tai Chi and brisk walking for cognitive function and fitness in older adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5652256/ ), Ji and colleagues recruited health adults aged 60 to 72 years. Participants who engaged in Tai Chi, brisk walking, or no exercise were compared on cognitive performance. They were measured with the Stroop test where names of colors were presented in colors different from the word, e.g. the word RED appears in a blue color. The participants are asked to report the word (naming) or the color of the word ignoring the meaning of the word itself (inhibition) or switch back and forth (Executive function). They were also measured with a digit comparison task in which they were presented with two numbers and asked to identify which was larger. The numbers were presented either simultaneously (non-delay) or delayed by 1.5 seconds (delay).

 

They found that both the Tai Chi and brisk walking groups were superior on the tasks than the control group. But, the Tai Chi group responded faster on the Stroop naming and executive conditions and were more accurate on the inhibition condition than the brisk walking group. In addition, the Tai Chi group responded faster than the brisk walking group on the delayed digit comparison condition. This suggests that the both Tai Chi and brisk walking participation improves cognitive performance in older adults but that Tai Chi dose so better than brisk walking.

 

The interpretation of the results needs to be qualified as there was no active manipulations of the activity conditions. Older adults who already participated in these activities were simply compared. Hence, it is impossible to conclude causation. It is conceivable that people who chose to participate in Tai Chi may be different people with better cognitive ability than people who chose brisk walking. The observed differences, then, may be due to the typ of people whoe chose an activity rather than the effects of the activity.

 

But, taken at face value the results suggest the Tai Chi, which places greater cognitive demands on the practitioner than brisk walking, has greater cognitive benefits. Given the progressive inevitable decline with aging in cognitive ability, methods that can slow or delay the decline are valuable. Tai Chi would appear to be an almost ideal method to improve fitness and balance, reducing falls, in the elderly and improve cognitive performance.

 

So, improve thinking in older adults with tai chi.

 

“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

 

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

 

Ji, Z., Li, A., Feng, T., Liu, X., You, Y., Meng, F., … Zhang, C. (2017).. PeerJ, 5, e3943. http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3943

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the benefits of exercises with different cognitive demands for cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in healthy older adults. A cross-sectional design was adopted. In total, 84 healthy older adults were enrolled in the study. They were categorized into the Tai Chi group (TG), the brisk walking group (BG) or the control group (CG). Each participant performed the Stroop task and a digit comparison task. The Stroop task included the following three conditions: a naming condition, an inhibition condition and an executive condition. There were two experimental conditions in the digit comparison task: the non-delay condition and the delay condition. The results indicated that participants of the TG and BG revealed significant better performance than the CG in the executive condition of cognitive tasks and fitness. There was no significant difference of reaction time (RT) and accuracy rate in the inhibition and delay conditions of cognitive tasks and fitness between the TG and BG. The TG showed shorter reaction time in the naming and the executive conditions, and more accurate in the inhibition conditions than the BG. These findings demonstrated that regular participation in brisk walking and Tai Chi have significant beneficial effects on executive function and fitness. However, due to the high cognitive demands of the exercise, Tai Chi benefit cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in older adults more than brisk walking does. Further studies should research the underlying mechanisms at the behavioural and neuroelectric levels, providing more evidence to explain the effect of high-cognitive demands exercise on different processing levels of cognition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5652256/

Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We’ve all known yogis who seemed to defy the hands of time. The current study is just one of a long list of studies indicating that yoga may promote healthy aging. Whether it be more growth hormone or less stress, a well-balanced yoga practice is good for you.” – 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 involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age. But, the nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.

 

Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. 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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/, Afonso and colleagues recruited women over 60 years of age with at least 8 years of Hatha yoga practice and a group of women, matched for age, education and physical activity, who had never practiced yoga, meditation, or other mind-body practices. They were measured for their ability to perform daily tasks of living, depression, and cognitive function. All participants underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the yoga practitioners had significantly greater cortical thickness in the frontal lobes than the control group while there were no areas where the yoga practitioners had significantly less cortical thickness. Hence, the practice of yoga appears to protect the prefrontal cortical areas from age related degeneration. This replicates previous findings that mindfulness practices, in general, increase the size of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal areas are important for high level thinking, including attention, behavioral inhibition, and executive functions. Hence, their preservation is important for the maintenance of cognitive ability with aging. So, the practice of yoga should be viewed as an important means to preserve the brain and mental ability and thereby age successfully.

 

So, protect the aging brain with yoga.

 

“scientifically and medically, most of the claims made for yoga practice stand up. The benefits on both body and mind are legion. The anti-ageing impact is profound. Doing yoga reduces back pain, improves balance and muscle strength and reverses muscle loss. It improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal symptoms, even the control of type 2 diabetes. It decreases anxiety and depression. It hugely enhances flexibility. There are endless sound academic sources to back up these statements as well as the testimony of countless practitioners.” – Carla McKay

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

 

Afonso, R. F., Balardin, J. B., Lazar, S., Sato, J. R., Igarashi, N., Santaella, D. F., … Kozasa, E. H. (2017). Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9, 201. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00201

 

Abstract

Yoga, a mind-body activity that requires attentional engagement, has been associated with positive changes in brain structure and function, especially in areas related to awareness, attention, executive functions and memory. Normal aging, on the other hand, has also been associated with structural and functional brain changes, but these generally involve decreased cognitive functions. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to compare brain cortical thickness (CT) in elderly yoga practitioners and a group of age-matched healthy non-practitioners. We tested 21 older women who had practiced hatha yoga for at least 8 years and 21 women naive to yoga, meditation or any mind-body interventions who were matched to the first group in age, years of formal education and physical activity level. A T1-weighted MPRAGE sequence was acquired for each participant. Yoga practitioners showed significantly greater CT in a left prefrontal lobe cluster, which included portions of the lateral middle frontal gyrus, anterior superior frontal gyrus and dorsal superior frontal gyrus. We found greater CT in the left prefrontal cortex of healthy elderly women who trained yoga for a minimum of 8 years compared with women in the control group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/