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/

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

if we can delay the onset of memory loss by five years, we can reduce an individual’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Moreover, if you can keep your memory strong and vital 10 years longer than expected, you can forget about ever getting Alzheimer’s.” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

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

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to slow physical and mental aging and improve mental health in the elderly.

 

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 older adults (over 50 years of age) with mild cognitive impairments and randomly assigned them to either relax and listen to classical music or practice Kirtan Kriya meditation for 12-minutes, once a day for 12 weeks. They were measured before and after treatment and again 3 months later for perceived stress, sleep quality, positive and negative moods, psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, memory, and cognitive ability. Retention of participants was high as only 8% dropped out of the study.

 

They found that after 12 weeks of practice both the music listening and the Kirtan Kriya meditation groups showed significant improvements in psychological well-being, mood, including anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, and fatigue, sleep quality, and health-related quality of life, including mental health, energy, and emotional well-being. These improvements were sustained 3 months after the conclusion of formal practice. Importantly, the Kirtan Kriya meditation group had significantly greater improvement in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, mental health-related quality of life than the music listening group.

 

These results suggest that relaxation in general produces sustained improvements in the well-being of older adults with mild cognitive impairments. But, Kirtan Kriya meditation practice produces greater improvements. The fact that there was a music listening control group suggests that it was the meditation per se and not just the relaxation inherent in meditation practice that was responsible for the improvements. This suggests that meditation practice is very beneficial of older adults with mild cognitive impairments improving their mental health, perceived stress, and well-being and that these improvements are sustained at least for 3 months. Since, these factors are associated with further cognitive decline, the results suggest that meditation practice may slow age-related cognitive decline.

 

So, reduce the stress of aging and quality of life with meditation.

 

“One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities. The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past. It is a good way to address stress.” – Sandra Weintraub

 

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 E. Innes, Terry Kit Selfe, Dharma Singh Khalsa, Sahiti Kandati. 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. J Alzheimers Dis.  2016 Apr 8; 52(4): 1277–1298. doi: 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 Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors with Mindfulness

Improve Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“MBSR may reduce hippocampal atrophy and improve functional connectivity in the same areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease. MBSR is a relatively simple intervention, with very little downside that may provide real promise for these individuals who have very few treatment options.” – Rebecca Wells

 

In the course of normal aging, there is a slow decline in cognitive ability. But, for some the decline can be excessive producing dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. 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. Alzheimer’s typically first emerges after age 65, but can occur at younger ages.

 

It is estimated that 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s disease. But, there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. These include drug treatments. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to improve the symptoms of age related dementia. It has been shown that chronic stress is a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness technique that was designed to reduce stress and its effects. So, it would seem reasonable to study the ability of MBSR to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

In today’s Research News article “Plasma REST: a novel candidate biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease is modified by psychological intervention in an at-risk population.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537638/, Ashton and colleagues examined the association of a biomarker, repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST), with Alzheimer’s disease and the ability of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to alter REST and the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They recruited patients over 65 years of age with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and healthy elderly control participants. They scanned their brains with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and collected blood samples to measure the plasma levels of REST. They also recruited individuals over 65 years of age with anxiety, depression, and mild cognitive impairment. They were randomly assigned to receive an 8-week program of either MBSR or health education. They measured memory, verbal fluency, executive function, anxiety, depression, worry, and collected blood samples to measure the plasma levels of REST.

 

They found that REST levels were significantly lower in Alzheimer’s disease patients than healthy control participants. Also, the lower the levels of REST the lower the brain volumes in these patients. In addition, the REST levels in participants with mild cognitive impairment who later expressed full blown Alzheimer’s disease were significantly lower than those participants who did not. MBSR produced a significant increase in REST and the greater the level of REST increase the greater the improvement in anxiety and depression.

 

These are very interesting and potentially important findings that suggest that levels of repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) in the blood may be a marker for Alzheimer’s disease. It is lower in patients with active Alzheimer’s disease and in people with mild cognitive impairment who would eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease and is associated with reduced brain volume. MBSR participation increases REST and the increase is associated with improved symptoms. This suggests that low REST levels identify Alzheimer’s disease patients and that mindfulness practice can increase REST levels.

 

Repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) promotes the development of neurons. So, low levels of REST may be a sign that neural development has slowed or stopped and this may be an important mechanism for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, mindfulness training may be able to reverse the decline in REST and could potentially restrain the development of the disease. It is not known how MBSR could affect REST, but it can be speculated that the ability of MBSR to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress may be involved.

 

So, improve Alzheimer’s disease risk factors with mindfulness.

 

“Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive-behavioural therapies and stress-reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual’s cognitive decline.” – Mindy Katz

 

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

 

Ashton, N. J., Hye, A., Leckey, C. A., Jones, A. R., Gardner, A., Elliott, C., … Marchant, N. L. (2017). Plasma REST: a novel candidate biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease is modified by psychological intervention in an at-risk population. Translational Psychiatry, 7(6), e1148–. http://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2017.113

 

Abstract

The repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) factor is a key regulator of the aging brain’s stress response. It is reduced in conditions of stress and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which suggests that increasing REST may be neuroprotective. REST can be measured peripherally in blood plasma. Our study aimed to (1) examine plasma REST levels in relation to clinical and biological markers of neurodegeneration and (2) alter plasma REST levels through a stress-reduction intervention—mindfulness training. In study 1, REST levels were compared across the following four well-characterized groups: healthy elderly (n=65), mild cognitive impairment who remained stable (stable MCI, n=36), MCI who later converted to dementia (converter MCI, n=29) and AD (n=65) from the AddNeuroMed cohort. REST levels declined with increasing severity of risk and impairment (healthy elderly>stable MCI>converter MCI>AD, F=6.35, P<0.001). REST levels were also positively associated with magnetic resonance imaging-based hippocampal and entorhinal atrophy and other putative blood-based biomarkers of AD (Ps<0.05). In study 2, REST was measured in 81 older adults with psychiatric risk factors for AD before and after a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention or an education-based placebo intervention. Mindfulness-based training caused an increase in REST compared with the placebo intervention (F=8.57, P=0.006), and increased REST was associated with a reduction in psychiatric symptoms associated with stress and AD risk (Ps<0.02). Our data confirm plasma REST associations with clinical severity and neurodegeneration, and originally, that REST is modifiable by a psychological intervention with clinical benefit.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537638/

Meditation Can Reduce the Age-Associated Degeneration of the Brain

Meditation Can Reduce the Age-Associated Degeneration of the Brain

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The brain begins to decline in the 20s, and continues to decrease in volume and weight through old age. Meditation, in addition to boosting emotional and physical well-being at any time in life, may be an effective way to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as help stave off some of the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging. The strategy is free, and it comes with no side effects.”Carolyn Gregoire

 

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 and activity of the brain as the years go by.

 

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 “Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578985/, Chételat and colleagues recruited expert meditators with at least 10 years of experience and a total of at least 15,000 hours of meditation practice and age matched meditation naïve controls. They also included non-meditators at a wide range of ages, 20-87 years. They all underwent scanning of the brain with either Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). They were measured for verbal fluency, episodic memory, short-term memory, and working memory, processing speed and executive functions, frequency of participation in leisure activities before 30 and from 30 to 65 years, and the highest level of occupation reached, adherence to Mediterranean diet, sleep quality and sleep disturbance.

 

They found that the older the meditation naïve participants the lower the volume of the brain gray matter and the lower the brain metabolism. Hence, they demonstrated, as have many others, age related degeneration of the brain. On the other hand, the expert meditators had significantly greater brain gray matter volume and metabolic activity than the age matched controls in the bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, and posterior cingulate cortex /precuneus. All of the expert meditators were over 60 yet their brain volumes were in the range of meditation naïve controls in their 30s and 40s.

 

These are remarkable results that suggest that large amounts of meditation practice can help to preserve the brain countering age related decline. The amount of meditation performed by these expert meditators is so high as to be unrealistic for use with the general population. Fortunately, other research suggests that the elderly brain changes positively in response to much lower amounts of mindfulness practice. So, mindfulness training may well be a feasible practice to protect the brains of seniors from further deterioration.

 

So, use meditation to reduce the age-associated degeneration of the brain

 

“A growing body of research supports the immediate benefits of meditation, such as reduced stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. Studies on mindfulness interventions show these effects are common in as few as eight weeks. While these initial perks may be reason enough for us to practice, meditation’s positive impact appears to be even more far-reaching, potentially adding years to our lives and improving cognitive function well into old age.” – Rina Deshpande

 

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

 

Chételat, G., Mézenge, F., Tomadesso, C., Landeau, B., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Rauchs, G., … Lutz, A. (2017). Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study. Scientific Reports, 7, 10160. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07764-x

 

Abstract

Aging is associated with progressive cerebral volume and glucose metabolism decreases. Conditions such as stress and sleep difficulties exacerbate these changes and are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Meditation practice, aiming towards stress reduction and emotion regulation, can downregulate these adverse factors. In this pilot study, we explored the possibility that lifelong meditation practice might reduce age-related brain changes by comparing structural MRI and FDG-PET data in 6 elderly expert meditators versus 67 elderly controls. We found increased gray matter volume and/or FDG metabolism in elderly expert meditators compared to controls in the bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, and posterior cingulate cortex /precuneus. Most of these regions were also those exhibiting the strongest effects of age when assessed in a cohort of 186 controls aged 20 to 87 years. Moreover, complementary analyses showed that these changes were still observed when adjusting for lifestyle factors or using a smaller group of controls matched for education. Pending replication in a larger cohort of elderly expert meditators and longitudinal studies, these findings suggest that meditation practice could reduce age-associated structural and functional brain changes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578985/

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

 

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

 

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.

 

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 “Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/, Kurth and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the neuroprotective effects of meditation in the elderly. They discuss the ideas that the aging based deterioration of the brain is due to a number of processes, including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity and that meditation appears to effect all of these processes.

 

There has accumulated evidence that meditation protects against age related decline at the molecular genetic level. As we age the length of a DNA structures called the telomeres progressively shorten. It is thought that the shorter the telomeres get the more difficult it becomes for cells to replicate properly and thus leads to decline. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically, has been shown to reduce the shortening of the telomeres with aging. Kurth and colleagues speculate that this is one mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from age related decline.

 

As we age the natural inflammatory response that normally occurs to protect against infection begins to increase in general and lose its specificity to fighting particular diseases, pathogens, and injuries. It becomes more widespread damaging normal tissues. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. It seems reasonable that this is another mechanism by which meditation protects the body from age related decline.

 

Stress is present throughout life. But if it is too intense or prolonged the biological responses to stress begin to damage the body. These stress induced changes are similar to age related deterioration. Stress effects may accumulate over time. Hence, the older we get the greater the total stress induced damage. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This is hypothesized to be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from deterioration with aging.

 

Neuroplasticity is a change in the size and connectivity of brain structures as they are exercised over a prolonged period of time. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain, increasing the size and connectivity of brain structures. This process would tend to counteract brain degeneration with aging and may be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain during aging.

 

Hence there has accumulated evidence that meditation reduces the deterioration of the brain with aging. It appears to do so by altering a number of different mechanisms including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity. This protection of the brain may be responsible to the ability of meditation to reduce the decline in mental abilities that occur with aging. This would tend to make aging a more benign process.

 

So, protect the aging brain with meditation.

 

We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” – Florian Kurth

 

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

 

Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 860. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860

 

Abstract

Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies has reported a positive impact of meditation on cerebral aging. However, the underlying mechanisms for these seemingly brain-protecting effects are not well-understood. This may be due to the fact, at least partly, that systematic empirical meditation research has emerged only recently as a field of scientific scrutiny. Thus, on the one hand, critical questions remain largely unanswered; and on the other hand, outcomes of existing research require better integration to build a more comprehensive and holistic picture. In this article, we first review theories and mechanisms pertaining to normal (brain) aging, specifically focusing on telomeres, inflammation, stress regulation, and macroscopic brain anatomy. Then, we summarize existing research integrating the developing evidence suggesting that meditation exerts positive effects on (brain) aging, while carefully discussing possible mechanisms through which these effects may be mediated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/

Improve Well-Being in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Well-Being in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. 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. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of tai chi qigong on psychosocial well-being among hidden elderly, using elderly neighborhood volunteer approach: 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/PMC5221552/, Chan and colleagues recruited “hidden elderly” participants, who were over 60 years of age and did not participate in any social activities. They were randomly assigned to either a control condition which received usual care or to receive Tai Chi practice for 60 minutes, twice a week for 3 months and were encouraged to practice at home for 30 minutes daily. They were measured before and after the 3-month practice period and 3 months later for their social network, social support, loneliness, mental health, self-esteem, and health quality of life.

 

They found compared to baseline and the control group that the group that practiced Tai Chi had significant improvements in loneliness, social support, and their physical quality of life that persisted for the three month follow-up period. There were no adverse events and the participants indicated that they were pleased with the practice. Hence, practicing Tai Chi was safe, acceptable, and effective; significantly improving the social, psychological, and physical conditions of the “hidden elderly.”

 

It is not clear that Tai Chi practice per se produced the benefits. Since the practice was twice a week in a group condition, these individuals who did not participate in social activities prior to the study, were thrust into a social context as a prerequisite for participation. Hence, the improvement in their social condition and their loneliness may be simply due to the required social participation. In future research, there needs to be a control condition with comparable social participation to ascertain if Tai Chi practice or simply social participation was responsible for the improvements.

 

Regardless of whether Tai Chi was responsible or not, getting the “hidden elderly” out of their isolated situation and engaging in social activities is important for their psychological and physical well-being. Tai Chi is safe and acceptable for the elderly, is a light exercise, can be practiced virtually anywhere at little of no cost, and promotes social engagement. So, it would seem to be an almost ideal vehicle to promote the well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve well-being in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“With its integrative approach that strengthens the body while focusing the mind, tai chi addresses a range of physical and mental health issues—including bone strength, joint stability, cardiovascular health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Tai chi is especially useful for improving balance and preventing falls—a major concern for older adults.” – Stephanie Watson

 

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

 

Chan, A. W., Yu, D. S., & Choi, K. (2017). Effects of tai chi qigong on psychosocial well-being among hidden elderly, using elderly neighborhood volunteer approach: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 12, 85–96. http://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S124604

 

Abstract

Purpose

To test the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a tai chi qigong program with the assistance of elderly neighborhood volunteers in strengthening social networks and enhancing the psychosocial well-being of hidden elderly.

Patients and methods

“Hidden elderly” is a term used to describe older adults who are socially isolated and refuse social participation. This pilot randomized controlled trial recruited 48 older adults aged 60 or above who did not engage in any social activity. They were randomized into tai chi qigong (n=24) and standard care control (n=24) groups. The former group underwent a three-month program of two 60-minute sessions each week, with the socially active volunteers paired up with them during practice. Standard care included regular home visits by social workers. Primary outcomes were assessed by means of the Lubben social network and De Jong Gieveld loneliness scales, and by a revised social support questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were covered by a mental health inventory and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale, and quality of life by using the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey. Data was collected at baseline, and at three and six months thereafter.

Results

The generalized estimating equations model revealed general improvement in outcomes among participants on the tai chi qigong program. In particular, participants reported a significantly greater improvement on the loneliness scale (B=−1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] −2.54 to −0.11, P=0.033) and the satisfaction component of the social support questionnaire (B=3.43, 95% CI 0.10–6.76, P=0.044) than the control group.

Conclusion

The pilot study confirmed that tai chi qigong with elderly neighborhood volunteers is a safe and feasible social intervention for hidden elderly. Its potential benefits in improving social and psychological health suggest the need for a full-scale randomized controlled trial to reveal its empirical effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5221552/

Mindfulness Impairs the Formation of Automatic Habits

Mindfulness Impairs the Formation of Automatic Habits

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The very fact of paying too much attention or being too aware of stimuli coming up in these tests might actually inhibit implicit learning. That suggests that mindfulness may help prevent formation of automatic habits — which is done through implicit learning — because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing.” – Chelsea Stillman

 

When people think of learning they’re usually visualizing learning information like historical facts, people’s names, mathematical formulas, etc. This is called explicit memory. But, there’s another very important form of learning, called implicit learning, which is learning how to perform automatic tasks rapidly and efficiently. Things like riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, serving a tennis ball and tying your shoelaces all require implicit learning and memory.

 

Implicit learning requires the person to actually perform and practice a task to master it. Many athletic skills fall into this category. The skills are mastered with repetition so that they can be performed instinctively and mindlessly when needed. Implicit learning also involves most mundane tasks that we perform constantly throughout our day. Walking, producing speech, even typing this sentence on a keyboard all involve implicitly learned skills. So, implicit learning is important and helps to reduce the cognitive load on our nervous system for everyday behaviors. We don’t have the think about them so we can devote our brain capacity to higher level thoughts and ideas.

 

It has been demonstrated that mindfulness helps with explicit learning, such as academic material. For example, mindfulness training can improve college entrance exam scores in students. But, mindfulness appears to disrupt implicit learning. In today’s Research News article “Task-Related Functional Connectivity of the Caudate Mediates the Association Between Trait Mindfulness and Implicit Learning in Older Adults.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955759/, Stillman and colleagues examine this disruptive effect of mindfulness and the neural systems responsible.

 

They recruited a group of healthy young adults (aged 18-37 years) and a group of healthy older adults (aged 60-90 years). They were measured for mindfulness and they completed an established implicit learning task. The task, Triplets Learning Task, involves a presentation of three stimuli with, unbeknownst to the participant, some triplets occurring more frequently than others. In general, people learn to respond to the more frequent triplets faster without awareness that there’s any difference between sets. In other words, they learn implicitly. While they were performing this task, their brains were scanned with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

The researchers found that for the younger group, there was no significant relationship between mindfulness and implicit learning. On the other hand, the older group had a significant relationship between mindfulness and implicit learning with the higher the mindfulness score, the lower the score on the Triplets Learning Task. Hence, mindfulness disrupted implicit learning in older but not younger participants.

 

Investigating the brain scans of this older group, they found that the degree of relationship between mindfulness and implicit learning was related to the level of connectivity between the Caudate Nucleus and the Medial Temporal Lobe, a system previously shown to be associated with implicit learning. In particular, the greater the connectivity the better the implicit learning, but the greater the mindfulness, the lower the connectivity. A further mediational analysis indicated that the negative influence of mindfulness on implicit learning was mediated by its negative effect on the connectivity. In other words, mindfulness changed the brain which resulted in disruption of implicit learning.

 

These are complicated findings. But, they are particularly interesting as they suggest that mindfulness effects the brain and this produces the behavioral effects. The results suggest that the disruptive influence of mindfulness on implicit learning occurs primarily in older adults and that it is mediated by mindfulness’ negative influence on the functional connectivity of the Caudate Nucleus with the Medial Temporal Lobe. It is known that there is deterioration in the Caudate Nucleus and the Medial Temporal Lobe with aging. It is possible, then, that mindfulness can only exert its disruptive effects when there is an already weakened Caudate Nucleus – Medial Temporal Lobe system present.

 

It is interesting that mindfulness did not disrupt implicit learning in the younger participants. This might explain why mindfulness training improves athletic performance. Athletes are generally young and the lack of disruption of implicit learning by mindfulness allows mindfulness to produce psychological enhancements that improve performance. This might not be true for older athletes.

 

Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness disrupts the establishment of automatic unconscious habits in older adults as a result of its negative effects on the interaction of two brain areas, Caudate Nucleus and the Medial Temporal Lobe.

 

people reporting low on the mindfulness scale tended to learn more—their reaction times were quicker in targeting events that occurred more often within a context of preceding events than those that occurred less often.” – Georgetown University Medical Center

 

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

 

Stillman, C. M., You, X., Seaman, K. L., Vaidya, C. J., Howard, J. H., & Howard, D. V. (2016). Task-Related Functional Connectivity of the Caudate Mediates the Association Between Trait Mindfulness and Implicit Learning In Older Adults. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 16(4), 736–753. http://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-016-0427-2

 

Abstract

Accumulating evidence shows a positive relationship between mindfulness and explicit cognitive functioning, i.e., that which occurs with conscious intent and awareness. However, recent evidence suggests that there may be a negative relationship between mindfulness and implicit types of learning, or those that occur without conscious awareness or intent. Here we examined the neural mechanisms underlying the recently reported negative relationship between dispositional mindfulness and implicit probabilistic sequence learning in both younger and older adults. We tested the hypothesis that the relationship is mediated by communication, or functional connectivity, of brain regions once traditionally considered to be central to dissociable learning systems: the caudate, medial temporal lobe (MTL), and prefrontal cortex (PFC). We first replicated the negative relationship between mindfulness and implicit learning in a sample of healthy older adults (60–90 years old) who completed three event-related runs of an implicit sequence learning task. Then, using a seed-based connectivity approach, we identified task-related connectivity associated with individual differences in both learning and mindfulness. The main finding was that caudate-MTL connectivity (bilaterally) was positively correlated with learning and negatively correlated with mindfulness. Further, the strength of task-related connectivity between these regions mediated the negative relationship between mindfulness and learning. This pattern of results was limited to the older adults. Thus, at least in healthy older adults, the functional communication between two interactive learning-relevant systems can account for the relationship between mindfulness and implicit probabilistic sequence learning.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4955759/

Reduce Mild Aging Cognitive Decline with Yogic Meditation

Reduce Mild Aging Cognitive Decline with Yogic Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The healthier and more active one’s lifestyle, the more likely he or she will maintain cognitive performance over time. And meditation may be a key ingredient for ensuring brain health and maintaining good mental performance.” – 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. But, 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.

 

Yoga is a mindfulness practice that is safe and applicable to the elderly. So, it could potentially be an ideal practice for the slowing of age related cognitive decline. In today’s Research News article “A randomized controlled trial of Kundalini yoga in mild cognitive impairment.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540331/, Eyre and colleagues recruited elderly (older than 55 years of age, average 68) with a mild degree of cognitive impairment and randomly assigned them to a 12 week, 60 minutes once a week, standard memory enhancement treatment or to yogic meditation practice, Kundalini Yoga. Daily homework was assigned. Kundalini Yoga includes meditation, breathing exercises, and mantra practice. The participants were measured before and after training and 12 weeks later for memory ability, executive function, resilience, physical and cognitive symptoms, neuropsychiatric symptoms, illness, apathy, and mood including depression.

 

They found that following training both the yoga and memory enhancement groups had significant improvements in memory and apathy and these improvements were still present 12 weeks after the end of training. In contrast, only the Kundalini Yoga group had significant improvements in depression, resilience, and executive function, including cognitive flexibility, response inhibition, and semantic fluency. Hence, both groups improved in memory and apathy, but only the Kundalini Yoga group also improved in mood, resilience, and higher-level thinking (cognitive function).

 

These are exciting findings suggesting the Kundalini Yoga is a safe and effective treatment that for age related declines in cognitive function, depression, apathy, and memory and improves stress resilience. It has been demonstrated that mindfulness training produces a wide variety of benefits for the elderly including mood, memory and cognitive improvements. So, Kundalini Yoga can be added to the list of effective mindfulness trainings for the elderly.

 

This was an excellent study as the comparison condition was the current “gold standard” of treatment for mild cognitive impairment in the elderly, memory enhancement training. Yet, Kundalini Yoga was significantly more beneficial. The improvement in stress resilience is important and may underlie some of the other benefits of the Kundalini Yoga training. Aging can produce considerable economic, physical, psychological, and social stresses. Improvement in the ability to withstand the effects of these stresses should be highly beneficial by decreasing the impact of these stresses on other aspects of physical and psychological functioning in the elderly.

 

So, reduce mild aging cognitive decline with yoga.

 

“Meditation could be a promising intervention in contrasting the negative effects of aging. Indeed, it has been shown to enhance cognitive efficiency in several domains, such as attention and executive functions.” Marco Sperduti

 

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

 

Eyre, H. A., Siddarth, P., Acevedo, B., Van Dyk, K., Paholpak, P., Ercoli, L., … Lavretsky, H. (2017). A randomized controlled trial of Kundalini yoga in mild cognitive impairment. International Psychogeriatrics, 29(4), 557–567. http://doi.org/10.1017/S1041610216002155

 

Abstract

Background

Global population aging will result in increasing rates of cognitive decline and dementia. Thus, effective, low-cost, and low side-effect interventions for the treatment and prevention of cognitive decline are urgently needed. Our study is the first to investigate the effects of Kundalini yoga (KY) training on mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Methods

Older participants (≥55 years of age) with MCI were randomized to either a 12-week KY intervention or memory enhancement training (MET; gold-standard, active control). Cognitive (i.e. memory and executive functioning) and mood (i.e. depression, apathy, and resilience) assessments were administered at baseline, 12 weeks and 24 weeks.

Results

At baseline, 81 participants had no significant baseline group differences in clinical or demographic characteristics. At 12 weeks and 24 weeks, both KY and MET groups showed significant improvement in memory; however, only KY showed significant improvement in executive functioning. Only the KY group showed significant improvement in depressive symptoms and resilience at week 12.

Conclusion

KY group showed short- and long-term improvements in executive functioning as compared to MET, and broader effects on depressed mood and resilience. This observation should be confirmed in future clinical trials of yoga intervention for treatment and prevention of cognitive decline

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5540331/

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This peaceful type of moving meditation is primarily used to improve strength, balance, flexibility and posture. Recent studies of Tai Chi shows that this mind-body practice is able to alleviate pain, improve mood, increase immunity and support heart health.” – World Health net

 

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.

 

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. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. 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. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/, Lou and colleagues recruited individuals from a senior living community (mean age 63 years) and randomly assigned them to either receive Tai Chi Softball Training for 7 weeks, four times a week, for 90 minutes each, or a no-treatment control group. Tai Chi Softball Training requires practitioners to hold a racket and control a softball on the surface of the racket while performing Tai Chi. Participants were measured before, at 7 weeks, and after training for lower limb strength and balance, and upper limb shoulder mobility, handgrip strength, and fine motor control.

 

They found that while the control group had deterioration in all measures, the participants in Tai Chi Softball Training had significant improvements in these same measures, including fine motor control, fine motor function, handgrip strength, hand and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, leg strength, and dynamic balance. The practice was found to be safe, as there were no significant adverse effects observed for participation in Tai Chi Softball Training.

 

These are wonderful results demonstrating that Tai Chi Softball Training is very effective in improving physical functional health in the elderly. This is particularly important as the progressive decline in motor ability in this group impacts their quality of life, health, and even their longevity. It would be interesting in future research to compare Tai Chi Softball Training to regular Tai Chi practice and other exercise programs to determine if one is superior to the others. Hence, Tai Chi because it is effective and gentle, is almost an ideal program for the elderly.

 

So, slow age-related physical decline with tai chi.

 

“tai chi may be an easier and more convenient than brisk walking as an anti-aging choice. Previous studies have shown tai chi also improves balance and may help boost brain functioning.” – 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

 

Lou, L., Zou, L., Fang, Q., Wang, H., Liu, Y., Tian, Z., & Han, Y. (2017). Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4585424. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4585424

 

Abstract

The purpose of this present study was to examine the effect of Taichi softball (TCSB) on physical function in Chinese older adults. Eighty Chinese older adults were randomly assigned into either an experimental group experiencing four 90-minute TCSB sessions weekly for seven consecutive weeks or a control group. At baseline and 7 weeks later, all participants were asked to perform physical functional tests for both lower and upper limbs. Multiple separate Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were applied to evaluate the effects of TCSB on function-related outcomes between baseline and postintervention in the two groups. The findings indicate that a short-term and intensive TCSB training program does not only improve low limb-related physical function such as dynamic balance and leg strength, but also strengthen upper limb-related physical function (e.g., arm and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, fine motor control, handgrip strength, and fine motor function). Health professionals could take into account TCSB exercise as an alternative method to help maintain or alleviate the inevitable age-related physical function degeneration in healthy older adults. In addition, researchers could investigate the effect of TCSB exercise on physical function in special populations such as patients with different chronic diseases or neurological disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“This peaceful type of moving meditation is primarily used to improve strength, balance, flexibility and posture. Recent studies of Tai Chi shows that this mind-body practice is able to alleviate pain, improve mood, increase immunity and support heart health.” – World Health net

 

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.

 

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. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. 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. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/, Lou and colleagues recruited individuals from a senior living community (mean age 63 years) and randomly assigned them to either receive Tai Chi Softball Training for 7 weeks, four times a week, for 90 minutes each, or a no-treatment control group. Tai Chi Softball Training requires practitioners to hold a racket and control a softball on the surface of the racket while performing Tai Chi. Participants were measured before, at 7 weeks, and after training for lower limb strength and balance, and upper limb shoulder mobility, handgrip strength, and fine motor control.

 

They found that while the control group had deterioration in all measures, the participants in Tai Chi Softball Training had significant improvements in these same measures, including fine motor control, fine motor function, handgrip strength, hand and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, leg strength, and dynamic balance. The practice was found to be safe, as there were no significant adverse effects observed for participation in Tai Chi Softball Training.

 

These are wonderful results demonstrating that Tai Chi Softball Training is very effective in improving physical functional health in the elderly. This is particularly important as the progressive decline in motor ability in this group impacts their quality of life, health, and even their longevity. It would be interesting in future research to compare Tai Chi Softball Training to regular Tai Chi practice and other exercise programs to determine if one is superior to the others. Hence, Tai Chi because it is effective and gentle, is almost an ideal program for the elderly.

 

So, slow age-related physical decline with tai chi.

 

“tai chi may be an easier and more convenient than brisk walking as an anti-aging choice. Previous studies have shown tai chi also improves balance and may help boost brain functioning.” – 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

 

Lou, L., Zou, L., Fang, Q., Wang, H., Liu, Y., Tian, Z., & Han, Y. (2017). Effect of Taichi Softball on Function-Related Outcomes in Older Adults: A Randomized Control Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4585424. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4585424

 

Abstract

The purpose of this present study was to examine the effect of Taichi softball (TCSB) on physical function in Chinese older adults. Eighty Chinese older adults were randomly assigned into either an experimental group experiencing four 90-minute TCSB sessions weekly for seven consecutive weeks or a control group. At baseline and 7 weeks later, all participants were asked to perform physical functional tests for both lower and upper limbs. Multiple separate Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were applied to evaluate the effects of TCSB on function-related outcomes between baseline and postintervention in the two groups. The findings indicate that a short-term and intensive TCSB training program does not only improve low limb-related physical function such as dynamic balance and leg strength, but also strengthen upper limb-related physical function (e.g., arm and forearm strength, shoulder mobility, fine motor control, handgrip strength, and fine motor function). Health professionals could take into account TCSB exercise as an alternative method to help maintain or alleviate the inevitable age-related physical function degeneration in healthy older adults. In addition, researchers could investigate the effect of TCSB exercise on physical function in special populations such as patients with different chronic diseases or neurological disorder (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5397616/