Relieve Chronic Low Back Pain with Tai Chi

Relieve Chronic Low Back Pain with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi has demonstrated usefulness in the prevention and treatment of certain problems such as back pain. Importantly, Tai Chi is non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, and gentle on the spine, so many people with back pain are starting to try it as an adjunct to (or sometimes instead of) traditional medical approaches to manage back pain. Furthermore, Tai Chi does not require any expensive equipment and can be practiced anywhere.” – Robert Humphreys

 

Low Back Pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects between 6% to 15% of the population. It is estimated, however, that 80% of the population will experience back pain sometime during their lives. There are varied treatments for low back pain including chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, surgery, opiate pain killing drugs, steroid injections, and muscle relaxant drugs. These therapies are sometimes effective particularly for acute back pain. But, for chronic conditions the treatments are less effective and often require continuing treatment for years and opiate pain killers are dangerous and can lead to abuse, addiction, and fatal overdoses.

 

Obviously, there is a need for safe and effective treatments for low back pain that are low cost and don’t have troublesome side effects. Mindfulness practices are effective in treating pain and have been shown to be safe and effective in the management of low back painTai Chi is a mindfulness practice that is safe and gentle and has been shown to improve spinal health and reduce pain. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the ability of Tai Chi practice to treat chronic low back pain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Chen-Style Tai Chi for Individuals (Aged 50 Years Old or Above) with Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388249/), Liu and colleagues recruited older adults (aged 50 and over) who were diagnosed with chronic low back pain and randomly assigned them to receive Chen Style Tai Chi training, deep core stabilization exercise, or a no-treatment control condition. Tai Chi and core stabilization exercise practice occurred for 60 minutes three times per week for 12 weeks. They were measured before and after training for lower back pain intensity and for knee and ankle joint position matching ability (proprioception).

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group both Tai Chi training and core stabilization exercise produced a significant decrease in lower back pain, with Tai Chi training producing the greatest relief of the pain. There were, however, no significant effects of training on knee and ankle joint proprioception.

 

The study is significant in that it demonstrates that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective treatment to relieve chronic low back pain in older adults. This pain is a major problem decreasing their ability to fully engage in daily and work activities. So the relief of the pain by Tai Chi practice should contribute to a marked increase in their quality of life.

 

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. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to treat with chronic low back pain.

 

So, relieve chronic low back pain with Tai Chi.

 

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

 

Liu, J., Yeung, A., Xiao, T., Tian, X., Kong, Z., Zou, L., & Wang, X. (2019). Chen-Style Tai Chi for Individuals (Aged 50 Years Old or Above) with Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(3), 517. doi:10.3390/ijerph16030517

 

Abstract

Tai Chi (TC) can be considered safe and effective intervention to improve pain and pain-related functional disability. However, it is unclear that whether aging individuals with Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain (CNS-LBP) can achieve positive results. This study, therefore, attempted to explore the effects of TC on pain and functional disability in CNS-LBP patients aged 50 years old or above. Forty-three individuals (aged 50 years old or above) with CNS-LBP were randomly assigned into three groups: Chen-Style TC group (n = 15), Core Stabilization training (CST) group (n = 15), and control group (n = 13). Participants in the TC group participated in Chen-style TC training program (three 60-min sessions per week for 12 weeks), individuals in CST group received 12-week Core Stabilization exercise on the Swiss ball, whereas individuals in the control group maintained their unaltered lifestyle. Pain intensity as primary outcome was measured using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), A BiodexSystem 3 isokinetic dynamometer was used to measure knee and ankle joint position sense (JPS) as secondary outcomes at baseline and after the 12-week intervention. TC and CST have significant effects in VAS for CNS-LBP patients (p< 0.01, TC group OR CST group versus control group in mean of the post-minus-pre assessment). However, the feature of joint position sense (JPS) of ankle inversion, ankle eversion and knee flexion did not occur, it showed no significant effects with TC and CST. TC was found to reduce pain, but not improve lower limb proprioception in patients with CNS-LBP. Future research with larger sample sizes will be needed to achieve more definitive findings on the effects of TC on both pain and lower limb proprioception in this population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6388249/

 

Improve Depression by Modulating the Autonomic Nervous System in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Depression by Modulating the Autonomic Nervous System in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi appears to relieve symptoms of depression in older people.” – Tara Parker-Pope

 

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. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability, and in emotion regulation. 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. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions producing increased loneliness, worry and anxiety.

 

There is some hope for age related decline, however, as there is evidence that it can be slowed. There are some indications that physical and mental exercise can reduce the rate of decline. For example, 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 and with improving depression. There is, however, been very little research on the mechanisms by which Tai Chi practice improves depression in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi on Heart Rate Variability in Older Chinese Individuals with Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313592/), Liu and colleagues recruited elderly (aged 60 and older) who were not taking antidepressant medications or drinking alcohol, but who scored as having mild depression on an elderly depression scale. They were randomly assigned to either receive Tai Chi training for 60 minutes, 3 times per week for 24 weeks, or to a no-treatment control condition. The elderly were measured before and after treatment for depression, and heart rate variability, a measure of autonomic nervous system activity.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the control group the Tai Chi participants had significantly decreased levels of depression and significant decreases in low frequency heart rate variability and significant increases in high frequency heart rate variability. The higher the levels of high frequency heart rate variability the lower the levels of depression and the lower the levels of low frequency heart rate variability the lower the levels of depression.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that Tai Chi training reduces depression in the elderly. The results further suggest that Tai Chi training may do so by creating balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. High frequency heart rate variability is suggestive of parasympathetic (relaxation) activity and this was increased by Tai Chi training while low frequency heart rate variability is suggestive of sympathetic (activation) activity and this was decreased by Tai Chi training. Hence, the results suggest that Tai Chi training may lead to less activation and greater relaxation and this may counter depression.

 

So, improve depression by modulating the autonomic nervous system in the elderly with Tai Chi

 

 “Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety and depression and improvements in cognition. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases.” – Healthline

 

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

 

Liu, J., Xie, H., Liu, M., Wang, Z., Zou, L., Yeung, A. S., … Yang, Q. (2018). The Effects of Tai Chi on Heart Rate Variability in Older Chinese Individuals with Depression. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(12), 2771. doi:10.3390/ijerph15122771

 

Abstract

Background Very little research has been done to simultaneously investigate the effects of Tai Chi (TC) on depression and heart rate variability (HRV). This study, therefore, attempted to explore the effects of TC on depression and on HRV parameters. Methods Sixty older individuals with depression score of 10 or above (the Geriatric Depression Scale, GDS) were randomly assigned into two groups: TC (n = 30) and control group (n = 30). Participants in the experimental group participated in a 24-week TC training program (three 60-min sessions per week), whereas individuals in the control group maintained their unaltered lifestyle. Depression and HRV were measured using the GDS and digital electrocardiogram at baseline and after the 24-week intervention. Results The TC had produced significant positive chances in depression and some HRV parameters (mean heart rate, RMSSD, HF, LFnorm, and HFnorm) (p < 0.05), whereas these positive results were not observed in the control group. Conclusions The results of this study indicated that TC may alleviate depression of the elderly through modulating autonomous nervous system or HRV parameters. This study adds to a growing body of research showing that TC may be effective in treating depression of the elderly. Tai Chi as a mild to moderate mind-body exercise is suitable for older individuals who suffer from depression.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313592/

 

Improve Cognitive Function in Early Dementia Patients with Tai Chi

Improve Cognitive Function in Early Dementia Patients with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

  • “The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related conditions is exploding in the United States. But while scientists struggle to find a new medical treatment, tai chi, the ancient Chinese martial art, has emerged as a potentially potent way to help stem the tide.” – David-Dorian Ross

 

Dementia is a progressive loss of mental function produced by degenerative diseases of the brain. These are progressive disorders with no cures. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is estimated that 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. It involves an irreversible progressive loss of mental function associated with brain degeneration. The early stages are typified by memory loss but as the disease progresses patients can lose the ability to carry on a conversation or carry on normal life functions, and eventually leads to death. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. On average, this progression lasts about 8 years but can last as long as 20 years.

 

Mindfulness training has been found to help protect aging individuals from physical and cognitive declines. 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. Tai Chi practice 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 function, memory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “The effectiveness of Tai Chi for short-term cognitive function improvement in the early stages of dementia in the elderly: a systematic literature review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6512568/), Lim and colleagues reviewed and summarized the published research literature examining the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice for the treatment of  cognitive problems in patients in the early stages of dementia. They identified 9 published research studies.

 

There were differing results in different studies that varied in rigor, but in general, the studies reported that Tai Chi practice resulted in improved cognitive function, working memory, verbal learning and memory, fewer complaints about memory loss, semantic memory, and visuospatial ability. Hence, the review concluded that Tai Chi practice produces small but clinically significant improvements in cognitive functions and memory in patients in the early stages of dementia.

 

These are potentially important findings as there is no cure for dementia and deterioration is inevitable. Slowing the progression of the disease is the only current hope there is for the patients. Tai Chi practice appears to be a safe and effective method to slow down the inevitable cognitive decline in dementia patients.

 

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. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to treat patients in the early stages of dementia, slowing the progression of the disease.

 

So, improve cognitive function in early dementia patients with Tai Chi.

 

“Those with the best balance and walking abilities at the start of the study were three times less likely to have developed dementia as those with lower physical abilities. The good news is that practicing can dramatically improve your balance within months or even weeks.”

 

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

 

Lim, K. H., Pysklywec, A., Plante, M., & Demers, L. (2019). The effectiveness of Tai Chi for short-term cognitive function improvement in the early stages of dementia in the elderly: a systematic literature review. Clinical interventions in aging, 14, 827–839. doi:10.2147/CIA.S202055

 

Abstract

Purpose: This systematic review examines intervention studies using Tai Chi in the early stages of dementia to determine the effectiveness of Tai Chi for the short-term improvement of cognitive functions for elderly persons with the disease.

Methods: A keyword search was done in PubMed/MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), and Cochrane Library databases using keywords such as Tai Chi, Dementia*, and cognition. A secondary search strategy consisting of a manual search in the reference lists of selected articles was also used.

Results: A total of nine studies were reviewed including six randomized controlled trials, two non-randomized controlled trials, and one non-randomized prospective study. The studies suggest Tai Chi has impacts on global cognitive functions, visuospatial skills, semantic memory, verbal learning/memory, and self-perception of memory. The effects of Tai Chi on overall cognition for people with mild cognitive impairment are comparable to those in control groups which engaged in exercise.

Conclusion: The studies reviewed affirm the potential of Tai Chi to improve short-term cognitive function in the elderly at the onset of dementia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6512568/

 

Reduce Stress and Improve Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

Reduce Stress and Improve Emotion Regulation with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“By recognizing and identifying emotions as they arise, you are able to see how your thoughts can spiral you into agitated emotional states. . . Being mindful of your emotions will help you accept them and also stay in control of them. It’s from that place you will be able to refocus, rebalance, and recalibrate.” – Tris Thorpe

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.

 

Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to be helpful in treating and preventing burnoutincreasing resilience, and improving sleep. It is not known if stress reduction my be part of the mechanism by which mindfulness improves the control of emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Perceived stress mediates the relationship between mindfulness and negative affect variability: A randomized controlled trial among middle-aged to older adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534144/), Colgan and colleagues recruited mildly stressed older adults aged 50 – 85 years and randomly assigned them to either receive a 6-week mindfulness meditation program or to a wait-list control condition. Meditation training occurred one-on-one for 1.5 hours weekly for 6 weeks and involved home practice. The participants were measured before and after training for perceived stress, positive and negative emotions, variability of negative emotions, and expectancies about the effects of meditation.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group the meditation group had significant decreases in perceived stress and negative emotion variability. In addition, the greater the change in perceived stress the greater the change in negative emotion variability. A mediation analysis revealed that meditation practice was reduced negative emotion variability directly and indirectly by reducing perceived stress which, in turn, reduced negative emotion variability.

 

It should be pointed out that there wasn’t an active control condition which opens up the possibility that placebo (subject expectancy) effects could be responsible for the results. But, the participants reported expectancies regarding the effects of meditation that were no different than the expectancies of control participants. This suggests that placebo effects were not responsible for the results.

 

Negative emotion variability can be viewed as an indicator of emotion regulation. If indeed an individual has better ability to deal with emotions then it would be expected that emotions would not build upon themselves and thereby be less variable. So, the present results are in line with previous research that meditation practice improves emotion regulation. They also suggest that it does so, in part, by its ability to reduce perceived stress.

 

So, reduce stress and improve emotion regulation with mindfulness.

 

Through mindfulness you can learn to turn your negative emotions into your greatest teachers and sources of strength. Instead of ‘turning away’ from pain in avoidance we can learn to gently ‘turn towards’ what we’re experiencing. We can bring a caring open attention towards the wounded parts of ourselves and make wise choices about how to respond to ourselves and to life. It’s a paradox that we all must understand: It is by turning towards negative emotions that we find relief from them – not by turning away.” – Melli O’Brien

 

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

 

Colgan, D. D., Klee, D., Memmott, T., Proulx, J., & Oken, B. (2019). Perceived stress mediates the relationship between mindfulness and negative affect variability: A randomized controlled trial among middle-aged to older adults. Stress and health : journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 35(1), 89–97. doi:10.1002/smi.2845

 

Abstract

Despite the interest in mindfulness over the past 20 years, studies have only recently begun to examine mindfulness in older adults. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate pretreatment to post-treatment change in negative affect variability (NAV) following a mindfulness training among 134 mildly stressed, middle-aged to older adults. The secondary aim was to assess if the effects of mindfulness training on NAV would be partially explained by pretreatment to post-treatment reductions in perceived stress, a trend that would be congruent with several stress models. In this randomized control trial, participants were assigned to either a 6-week mindfulness meditation training programme or to a wait list control. Ecological momentary assessment, a data capturing technique that queries about present moment experiences in real time, captured NAV. Mixed-model ANOVAs and a path analysis were conducted. Participants in the mindfulness meditation training significantly reduced NAV when compared with wait list control participants. Further, there was a significant indirect group effect on reductions in NAV through change in perceived stress. Few studies have tested mechanisms of action, which connect changes that occur during mindfulness training with psychological outcomes in older adults. Understanding the mechanisms by which mindfulness enhances well-being may optimize interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6534144/

 

Improve Physical and Mental Health in the Homebound Elderly with Qigong and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Improve Physical and Mental Health in the Homebound Elderly with Qigong and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

tai chi provides plenty of health benefits at any age, but it is especially appropriate for seniors. It doesn’t require special equipment, it’s easy on the muscles and joints and it’s one of the best low-impact exercise programs out there.” – Perry Alleva

 

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. 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.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) attempts to teach patients to distinguish between thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and behaviors, and to recognize irrational thinking styles and how they affect behavior. This would also seem an appropriate therapy for the psychological and mental decline in the elderly. In today’s Research News article “The effect of Baduanjin qigong combined with CBT on physical fitness and psychological health of elderly housebound.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6320153/), Jing and colleagues compare the effectiveness of Qigong practice and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and their combination for the treatment of physical and mental problems of the housebound elderly.

 

They recruited elderly (over 60 years of age) who were housebound (left the house once per week or fewer over a period of at least 6 months) and randomly assigned them to receive either Qigong practice, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or their combination. They received the intervention at home for 1 to 1.5 hours per visit twice a month for the first 3 months and once a month for the next three months. They were encouraged to practice at home daily. They were measured before, at 3 months, and after the intervention for pulmonary function, activities of daily living, subjective health, loneliness, depression, quality of life and the housebound scale.

 

They found at the end of the intervention that all groups had significant improvements in their lung function, their daily activities, subjective health, loneliness, depression, and quality of life. They also found that the combined Qigong and CBT group was significantly less housebound (lest the house more often), lonely, and depressed, and had significantly greater subjective health than either of the treatments separately.

 

The results are very positive but the lack of an active control condition leaves open the possibility of attention effects, placebo effects, and experimenter bias. Indeed. the housebound elderly would be expected to react very positively to home visits and this by itself could improve their mental state. But the results suggest that although Qigong practice and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are effective treatments to improve the physical and psychological state of the housebound elderly, the combination of the two produces even greater benefits. The fact that their benefits are additive suggests the Qigong practice and CBT work by differing mechanisms.

 

Qigong 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. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed alone, at home, and can be quickly learned. So, Qigong practices would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to treat housebound elderly individuals and its effectiveness can be significantly increased by combining it with and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

 

So, improve physical and mental health in the homebound elderly with Qigong and cognitive behavioral therapy.

 

“research into the benefits of tai chi for seniors indicates that with regular practice, individuals may relieve the symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, and depression, improve coordination, reducing the number of falls, improve everyday physical functioning, which promotes independent living, reduce arthritis pain, joint stiffness, and high blood pressure, maintain a healthy bone density level to reduce breakage, improve overall fitness.” – Tracey Kelly

 

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

 

 

Jing, L., Jin, Y., Zhang, X., Wang, F., Song, Y., & Xing, F. (2018). The effect of Baduanjin qigong combined with CBT on physical fitness and psychological health of elderly housebound. Medicine, 97(51), e13654. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000013654

 

Abstract

Background:

To investigate the effectiveness of Baduanjin qigong combined with cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) on the physical fitness and psychological health of elderly housebound.

Materials and methods:

The 120 elderly housebound were randomly divided into 3 intervention groups: Baduanjin training, Baduanjin training combined with CBT, and CBT. The interventions were conducted by means of home visits over 6 months. Spirometry, SF-36 health survey of quality of life, and Lawton and Brody Instrumental Activities of Daily Living Scale (IADL) were used to collect physical health data, and self-evaluation of overall health status, self-evaluation of loneliness, and short-form geriatric depression scale (GDS-15) were used to collect mental health data at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months after intervention. Data was analyzed by repeated measures analysis of variance (rANOVA) and chi-squared test (χ2 test).

Results:

Forced vital capacity (FVC), maximum voluntary ventilation (MVV), quality of life (QOL), and self-reported health status were significantly increased (P < .05) in the group receiving joint Baduanjin and CBT intervention at 3 months and 6 months, as compared to the Baduanjin only group or the CBT only group. Activities of daily living (ADL), self-evaluated loneliness, and level of depression were significantly lowered (P < .05) in the group receiving joint Baduanjin and CBT intervention at 3 months and 6 months, as compared to the Baduanjin only group or the CBT only group.

Conclusions:

Physical and psychological statuses of elderly housebound were significantly improved by Baduanjin training combined with CBT. The effect of the combined intervention exceeded that of CBT or Baduanjin alone.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6320153/

 

Reduce Injurious Falls in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Reduce Injurious Falls in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

What is fascinating is that the fear of falling often results in more falls; hence, confidence in “not falling” will help to reduce falls. With regular practice, tai chi improves balance by strengthening muscles and co-ordination; at the same time, it strengthens the mind, thereby improving calmness and confidence in not falling. Thus, both physically and mentally, tai chi is an extremely effective exercise for fall prevention.” – Paul Lam

 

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.

 

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. Indeed, Tai Chi training has been shown to reduce the frequency of falls in the elderly. It is not known, however, if Tai Chi training is better or worse than other exercises for reducing falls in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of Tai Ji Quan vs Multimodal and Stretching Exercise Interventions for Reducing Injurious Falls in Older Adults at High Risk of Falling: Follow-up Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6484587/), Harmer and colleagues recruited elderly individuals (70 years of age and older) who had impaired mobility and who had experienced falls in the last year. They were randomly assigned to either to twice weekly, 1-hour, sessions, for 24 weeks of Tai Chi practice, multimodal exercise, or stretching exercises. Multimodal exercises consisted of “a mix of aerobic conditioning and strength, balance, and flexibility activities.” They were measured before, after, and 3 and 6 months after the interventions for falls, and the “number of fall-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations.”

 

They found that at 6 and 12 months, the Tai Chi  groups had significantly fewer injurious falls both moderately serious and serious than the stretching group and significantly fewer than the multimodal exercise group at 6 months. The multimodal exercise group also had significantly fewer serious falls than the stretching group at 12 months. At the 12 month point the Tai Chi group had significantly fewer emergency department visits and hospitalizations than the multimodal exercise group and the stretching group. The multimodal exercise group had significantly fewer emergency department visits than the stretching group

 

The results demonstrate that although multimodal exercise is beneficial for the elderly in reducing injurious falls, practicing Tai Chi  was significantly more beneficial; reducing injurious falls, emergency department visits and hospitalizations. 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  practices would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to reduce injurious falls in aging individuals.

 

Older adults at high-risk for falls are often physically inactive, thus practical and effective interventions are needed to reduce sedentary time and improve lower-body strength and balance,” – Matthew Smith

 

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

 

Li, F., Harmer, P., Eckstrom, E., Fitzgerald, K., Chou, L. S., & Liu, Y. (2019). Effectiveness of Tai Ji Quan vs Multimodal and Stretching Exercise Interventions for Reducing Injurious Falls in Older Adults at High Risk of Falling: Follow-up Analysis of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open, 2(2), e188280. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8280

 

Key Points

Question

Is a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention more effective than stretching exercise or a proven multimodal exercise intervention in decreasing injurious falls among community-dwelling older adults at high risk of falling?

Findings

In this follow-up analysis of a randomized clinical trial that included 670 older adults with a history of falls or impaired mobility, a therapeutic tai ji quan intervention, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance, was significantly more effective for lowering the incidence of both moderate injurious falls compared with stretching exercise and serious injurious falls compared with stretching exercise and multimodal exercise.

Meaning

The therapeutically tailored tai ji quan training intervention proved to be more safe and effective than stretching or multimodal exercises in reducing the incidence of injurious falls in older adults at high risk of falling.

Question

Is a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention more effective than stretching exercise or a proven multimodal exercise intervention in decreasing injurious falls among community-dwelling older adults at high risk of falling?

Findings

In this follow-up analysis of a randomized clinical trial that included 670 older adults with a history of falls or impaired mobility, a therapeutic tai ji quan intervention, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance, was significantly more effective for lowering the incidence of both moderate injurious falls compared with stretching exercise and serious injurious falls compared with stretching exercise and multimodal exercise.

Meaning

The therapeutically tailored tai ji quan training intervention proved to be more safe and effective than stretching or multimodal exercises in reducing the incidence of injurious falls in older adults at high risk of falling.

Abstract

Importance

Exercise has been shown to reduce injurious falls in older adults. Evidence, however, is lacking regarding the types of intervention that are most effective in preventing injurious falls among older adults at high risk of falling.

Objective

To determine the longer-term effectiveness of therapeutic tai ji quan intervention vs multimodal exercise and stretching exercise in decreasing injurious falls among older adults at high risk of falling.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This trial involves a prespecified analysis with the data analyzed by intent-to-treat. Follow-up analysis of a single-blind randomized trial conducted in community settings of 7 urban and suburban cities in Oregon from February 20, 2015, to September 15, 2018, compared a therapeutic tai ji quan intervention with multimodal exercise and stretching exercise. Eligible participants were community-dwelling adults aged at least 70 years who were considered by a clinician to be at high risk of falling because they had fallen during the preceding year or who had impaired mobility with scores higher than 13.5 seconds on the Timed Up & Go test. Participants were randomized to 1 of the 3 interventions and were assessed monthly after randomization for 12 months, encompassing a 6-month active intervention phase and a 6-month after intervention follow-up phase.

Interventions

The 3 group-based interventions were therapeutic tai ji quan (Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance [TJQMBB]), multimodal exercise, and stretching exercise, each implemented twice weekly in 60-minute sessions for 24 weeks.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Primary outcomes were the incidence of moderate and serious injurious falls at 12 months, measured as incidence rate ratios (IRRs).

Results

Of the 1147 persons screened, 670 (mean [SD] age, 77.7 [5.6] years; 436 women [65.1%]) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 intervention groups: 224 persons in TJQMBB, 223 in multimodal exercise, and 223 in stretching exercise. At 12 months, the unadjusted IRR for moderate injurious falls was lower in the TJQMBB (IRR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.35-0.74; P < .001) and multimodal exercise (IRR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.42-0.89; P = .01) groups compared with the stretching exercise group. There was no difference between TJQMBB and multimodal exercise groups (IRR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.58-1.25; P = .42). Both TJQMBB and multimodal exercise significantly reduced serious injurious falls (TJQMBB: IRR, 0.25 [95% CI, 0.13-0.48; P < .001]; multimodal: IRR, 0.56 [95% CI, 0.33-0.94; P = .03]) compared with stretching exercise. Use of TJQMBB was more effective than multimodal exercise (IRR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.24-0.92; P = .03) in reducing serious injurious falls.

Conclusions and Relevance

For preventing injurious falls, including those that resulted in medical treatment, TJQMBB intervention was found to be superior to multimodal and stretching exercises for older adults at high risk of falling. The findings appear to strengthen the clinical use of TJQMBB as a single exercise intervention to prevent injurious falls in this population.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6484587/Importance

 

Alter the Brain for Improved Memory with Aging with Tai Chi

Alter the Brain for Improved Memory with Aging with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“our brain physiology and memory can be changed with Tai Chi. . . Brain scans show neural changes in the Tai Chi group associated with better memory, especially in cognitive areas associated with spatial memory.” – Paul Lam

 

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.

 

An interconnected system of the brain known as the Default Mode Network (DMN) is involved in internally focused tasks such as recalling memories, daydreaming, sleeping, imagining the future and trying to take the perspective of others. The DMN involves neural structures including the medial prefrontal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortices, precuneus, inferior parietal cortex, and lateral temporal cortex. These areas of the DMN are functionally connected, such that they are simultaneously active during memory retrieval. It is possible that Tai Chi practice improves memory in aging adults by altering the functional connectivity of the DMN.

 

In today’s Research News article “Different Modulation Effects of Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin on Resting State Functional Connectivity of the Default Mode Baduanjin is a mind-body training that is very similar to Tai Chi and consists of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. Network in Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6374601/), Liu and colleagues recruited healthy older participants, aged 50 to 70 years, who had not been regularly exercising and randomly assigned them to a health education program or to engage in a Tai Chi or Baduanjin practice for 60 minutes per session, five days per week, for 12 weeks. Baduanjin is a mind-body training that is very similar to Tai Chi and consists of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. Before and after the 12-week intervention period the participants were measured for memory function and underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the health education control group the older adults who practiced Tai Chi or Baduanjin had significant improvements in memory function. The MRI scans demonstrated increased Tai Chi Practice produced functional connectivity within the Default Mode Network (DMN) between the medial prefrontal cortex and right putamen/caudate and the cingulate cortex and right putamen/caudate. On the other hand, Baduanjin practice produced decreased functional connectivity between the medial prefrontal cortex and orbital prefrontal gyrus/putamen.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that both Tai Chi and Baduanjin practice improve memory in older adults and also alter the connectivity between structures in the Default Mode Network (DMN). Interestingly, the two practices appear to produce different changes in functional connectivity within the DMN. This suggests that the two practice my improve memory in different ways, both altering the DMN, but differently.

 

The results demonstrate as has previous research that ancient Chinese mindful movement practices help to restrain age related deterioration in the memory processes. These mindful movement practices are gentle and safe, are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, they can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to improve memory in aging individuals.

 

So, alter the brain for improved memory with aging with Tai Chi and Baduanjin practices.

 

tai chi is a culturally appropriate mind-body therapy for older adults with mild cognitive impairment . . . It was also effective in improving the activities of daily living and cognition.” – Medical News Bulletin

 

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

 

Liu, J., Tao, J., Liu, W., Huang, J., Xue, X., Li, M., … Kong, J. (2019). Different Modulation Effects of Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin on Resting State Functional Connectivity of the Default Mode Network in Older Adults. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 14(2), 217–224. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz001

 

Abstract

The default mode network (DMN) plays an important role in age-related cognitive decline. This study aims to explore the modulation effect of two mind–body interventions (Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin) on DMN in elderly individuals. Participants between 50 and 70 years old were recruited and randomized into a Tai Chi Chuan, Baduanjin or control group. The Wechsler Memory Scale-Chinese Revision and resting-state fMRI scans were administered at baseline and following 12 weeks of exercise. Seed-based resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) was calculated. We found that (i) compared to the Baduanjin group, Tai Chi Chuan was significantly associated with increased rsFC between the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and right putamen/caudate and (ii) compared to the control group, Tai Chi Chuan increased posterior cingulate cortex rsFC with the right putamen/caudate, while Baduanjin decreased rsFC between the mPFC and orbital prefrontal gyrus/putamen. Baseline mPFC rsFC with orbital prefrontal gyrus was negatively correlated with visual reproduction subscore. These results suggest that both Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin can modulate the DMN, but through different pathways. Elucidating the mechanisms underlying different mind–body interventions may shed light on the development of new methods to prevent age-related diseases as well as other disorders associated with disrupted DMN.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6374601/

 

Reduce Age-Related Decline in the Brain with Mindfulness

Reduce Age-Related Decline in the Brain with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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.

 

In today’s Research News article “Default Mode Network, Meditation, and Age-Associated Brain Changes: What Can We Learn from the Impact of Mental Training on Well-Being as a Psychotherapeutic Approach?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466873/), Ramírez-Barrantes and colleagues review and summarize the research on the effects of meditation practice on brain function and aging focusing primarily on the Default Mode Network (DMN). It is composed of interconnected brain regions including the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, inferior parietal lobule, and inferolateral temporal cortex. It is active when the mind is wandering and when the individual is involved in self-referential thinking.

 

Increased activation and functional connectivity of the Default Mode Network (DMN) are associated with the cognitive decline with aging. This makes sense as increased mind wandering would interfere with the attentional focus needed for high level thinking. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have been shown to both reduce the cognitive decline with aging and also to decrease the activation and functional connectivity of the DMN. This suggests that mindfulness practices may help prevent the cognitive decline in aging in part by reducing the activity of the DMN.

 

Ramírez-Barrantes and colleagues propose that age-related cognitive decline may be slowed or prevented by engaging in mindfulness practices that reduce the activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN). This would reduce mind wandering and improve attention focus resulting in a greater ability to engage in high level thinking. Much more research is needed to explore this interesting possibility.

 

So, reduce age-related decline in the brain with mindfulness.

 

“experienced meditators have higher concentrations of tissue in brain regions most depleted by aging. This suggests that meditation practice may help to minimize brain age and protect against age-related decline.” – Matt Caron

 

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

 

Ramírez-Barrantes, R., Arancibia, M., Stojanova, J., Aspé-Sánchez, M., Córdova, C., & Henríquez-Ch, R. A. (2019). Default Mode Network, Meditation, and Age-Associated Brain Changes: What Can We Learn from the Impact of Mental Training on Well-Being as a Psychotherapeutic Approach?. Neural Plasticity, 2019, 7067592. doi:10.1155/2019/7067592

 

Abstract

Aging is a physiological process accompanied by cognitive decline, principally in memory and executive functions. Alterations in the connectivity of the default mode network (DMN) have been found to participate in cognitive decline, as well as in several neurocognitive disorders. The DMN has antisynchronic activity with attentional networks (task-positive networks (TPN)), which are critical to executive function and memory. Findings pointing to the regulation of the DMN via activation of TPN suggest that it can be used as a strategy for neuroprotection. Meditation is a noninvasive and nonpharmacological technique proven to increase meta-awareness, a cognitive ability which involves the control of both networks. In this review, we discuss the possibility of facilitating healthy aging through the regulation of networks through meditation. We propose that by practicing specific types of meditation, cognitive decline could be slowed, promoting a healthy lifestyle, which may enhance the quality of life for the elderly.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6466873/

 

Heighten Mental and Physical Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

Heighten Mental and Physical Well-Being with Mindfulness Training

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others. If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can: help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, , improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.” – Harvard Health

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness Training, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as well as Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

This research suggests that engaging in mindfulness practices can make you a better human being, with greater mental and physical well-being. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Training: Can It Create Superheroes?” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00613/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A), Jones and colleagues review and summarize the published research on the effects of mindfulness training on psychological and physical well-being.

 

They found that the published research presented substantial findings that mindfulness training enhanced physical functioning including improved health, decreased heart rate, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood cortisol and resistance to disease, including improved stress responding, increased immune system response, and decreased inflammatory responses. They also report the mindfulness training produces tended to protect against the mental and physical effects of aging, including reduced cognitive decline and reduced brain deterioration. In addition, they report that mindfulness training produces improved cognitive processing, including improved heightened attentional ability, improved neural processing, and alterations of brain systems underlying consciousness. Mindfulness training also produced greater resilience and fearlessness, including improved emotion regulation, reduced responding to negative stimuli, lower pain responding, and lower fear conditioning. Mindfulness training also produced more self-less and pro-social behaviors, including increased altruism, increased kindness, and compassion. Finally, they report that mindfulness training can produce some control over autonomic responses.

 

This review suggests that people who engage in mindfulness training become superior in mental and physical health to non-practitioners and have superior cognitive abilities particularly in regard to attention and higher-level thinking. This doesn’t exactly make them “superheroes” but rather better versions of themselves.

 

So, heighten mental and physical well-being with mindfulness training.

 

Ultimately, engaging in mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to both focus and broaden our attention, which is a practical way to elicit psychological well-being.” – Jennifer Wolkin

 

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

 

Jones P (2019) Mindfulness Training: Can It Create Superheroes? Front. Psychol. 10:613. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00613

 

With the emergence of the science of heroism there now exists both theoretical and empirical literature on the characteristics of our everyday hero. We seek to expand this inquiry and ask what could be the causes and conditions of a superhero. To address this we investigate the origins of mindfulness, Buddhist psychology and the assertion that its practitioners who have attained expertise in mindfulness practices can develop supernormal capabilities. Examining first their foundational eight “jhana” states (levels of attention) and the six consequent “abhinnas” (siddhis or special abilities) that arise from such mental mastery, we then explore any evidence that mindfulness practices have unfolded the supernormal potential of its practitioners. We found a growing base of empirical literature suggesting some practitioners exhibit indicators of enhanced functioning including elevated physical health and resistance to disease, increased immunity to aging and improved cognitive processing, greater resilience and fearlessness, more self-less and pro-social behaviors, some control over normally autonomic responses, and possibly some paranormal functionality. These improvements in normal human functioning provide some evidence that there are practices that develop these abilities, and as such we might want to consider adopting them to develop this capability. There are however insufficient studies of expert meditators and more research of adepts is called for that explores the relationship between levels of attentional skill and increases in functionality. We propose in search of the superhero, that if conventional mindfulness training can already augment mental and physical capabilities, a more serious inquiry and translation of its advanced methods into mainstream psychological theory is warranted.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00613/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_951898_69_Psycho_20190404_arts_A

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Mental Health Problems with Mindfulness

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Mental Health Problems with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“You can think of emotional regulation like stopping a train—it works better if you can stop before the train (your emotions) starts rolling too fast.  It also helps when your brakes work immediately, without interference. Mindfulness lets you know right away that you need to stop and keeps thoughts and emotions from interfering.” – University of Minnesotta

 

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. 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. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions producing increased loneliness, worry and anxiety.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of psychological issues that occur with aging. 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. But not everyone responds to mindfulness training with improvement. Identifying who will respond and who won’t is important in determining the best treatment option for each individual.

 

In today’s Research News article “Predictors of Improvements in Mental Health From Mindfulness Meditation in Stressed Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5802968/ ), Oken and colleagues recruited generally healthy, meditation naïve, older individuals aged 50 to 85 years who reported high levels of perceived stress. They were randomly assigned to a wait-list control group or to receive a 6-week program of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) including home practice. MBCT training occurred once a week for 60 to 90 minutes and involves mindfulness training, containing sitting, walking and body scan meditations, and cognitive therapy That is designed to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms.

 

The participants were measured before and after treatment and 2 months later for perceived stress, life experience stressors, neuroticism, positive and negative emotions, depression, health-related quality of life, sleep quality, fatigue, self-efficacy, and mindfulness. The researchers separated the participants by their response to the treatment with responders (half the participants) showing significant improvement in mental health.

 

They found that the responders had poorer mental health at the beginning (baseline) including greater levels of negative emotions, lower health related quality of life, and greater fatigue. One interpretive difficulty here is a phenomenon called regression to the mean. This occurs when extremes are selected. On retest they are almost always significantly better. It is possible that the observed effects were not due to the treatment but to people who were struggling getting spontaneously better.

 

These results, however, suggest that MBCT training is best suited to older individuals who have existing mental health issues and is little value to those who are relatively stable psychologically. This makes sense and implies that MBCT training is not particularly useful for psychologically healthy individuals but can help those with difficulties.

 

So, improve mental health in older adults with mental health problems with mindfulness.

 

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

 

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

 

Oken, B. S., Goodrich, E., Klee, D., Memmott, T., & Proulx, J. (2018). Predictors of Improvements in Mental Health From Mindfulness Meditation in Stressed Older Adults. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 24(1), 48-55.

 

Abstract

Context

The benefits of a mindfulness meditation (MM) intervention are most often evidenced by improvements in self-rated stress and mental health. Given the physiological complexity of the psychological stress system, it is likely that some people benefit significantly, while others do not. Clinicians and researchers could benefit from further exploration to determine which baseline factors can predict clinically significant improvements from MM.

Objectives

The study intended to determine: (1) if the baseline measures for participants who significantly benefitted from MM training were different from the baseline measures of participants who did not and (2) whether a classification analysis using a decision-tree, machine-learning approach could be useful in predicting which individuals would be most likely to improve.

Design

The research team performed a secondary analysis of a previously completed randomized, controlled clinical trial.

Setting

Oregon Health & Science University and participants’ homes.

Participants

Participants were 134 stressed, generally healthy adults from the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon, who were 50 to 85 years old.

Intervention

Participants were randomly assigned either to a six-week MM intervention group or to a waitlist control group, who received the same MM intervention after the waitlist period.

Outcome Measures

Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and at two-month follow-up intervals. A responder was defined as someone who demonstrated a moderate, clinically significant improvement on the Mental Health Component (MHC) of the SF-36, Short Form Health-related Quality of Life (SF-36), ie, a change ≥4. The MHC had demonstrated the greatest effect size in the primary analysis of the above-mentioned randomized, controlled clinical trial. Potential predictors were demographic information and baseline measures related to stress and affect. Univariate statistical analyses were performed to compare the values of predictors in the responder and nonresponder groups. In addition, predictors were chosen for a classification analysis using a decision tree approach.

Results

Of the 134 original participants, 121 completed the MM intervention. As defined above, 61 were responders and 60 were nonresponders. Analyses of the baseline measures demonstrated significant differences between the 2 groups in several measures: (1) the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule negative sub-scale (PANAS-neg), (2) the SF-36 MHC, and (3) the SF-36 Energy/Fatigue, with clinically worse scores being associated with greater likelihood of being a responder. Disappointingly, the decision-tree analyses were unable to achieve a classification rate of better than 65%.

Conclusions

The differences in predictor variables between responders and nonresponders to an MM intervention suggested that those with worse mental health at baseline were more likely to improve. Decision-tree analysis was unable to usefully predict who would respond to the intervention.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5802968/