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/

 

Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi

Protect the Brain from Age-Related Atrophy with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai Chi . . improves brain health and can be an effective solution for simple, age-related decline in brain function.” – FAI Education

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Using modern neuroimaging techniques, scientists have been able to view the changes that occur in the nervous system with aging. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. Tai Chi and Qigong have also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging and to increase brain matter in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_907099_69_Psycho_20190212_arts_A ), Liu and colleagues recruited older (60 to 70 years of age) adults who had been practicing Tai Chi for at least 10 years and control participants who were matched to the Tai Chi group on age, physical activity and gender. They were measured for mindfulness, depression, impulsivity, and personality. They also underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The participants also completed a computerized risk-taking task which had both positive or negative outcomes. They completed emotion ratings after each outcome.

 

They found that the experienced Tai Chi practitioners had significantly greater emotional stability and took less risks than the control group. Additionally, the Tai Chi group had significantly stronger emotional reactions to both good and bad outcomes in the risk-taking task. The brain scans revealed that the Tai Chi group had significantly greater grey matter in the areas of the brain known as the hippocampus and the thalamus. They also found that the greater the grey matter in the thalamus the greater the levels of mindfulness and emotional stability while the greater the grey matter in the hippocampus the greater the levels of emotional stability and lower levels of neuroticism and risk taking.

 

These are interesting results but the study is correlational and cross sectional. So, care must be exercised in interpretation of causation. But the fact that the control group was equally physically active as the Tai Chi group is a strength that suggests that the results were due to Tai Chi practice per se and not just to the physical activity produced by Tai Chi practice. The results suggest that Tai Chi practice may help to protect the brain, particularly the thalamus and hippocampus, from age-related degeneration as has been previously reported, and this protection may be associated with greater emotional stability and lower risk taking.

 

The findings of less risk taking of the elderly Tai Chi participants may be an important observation. The elderly may be vulnerable to injury and falls that can produce serious injuries in this group. One reason that Tai Chi may produce fewer falls in the elderly is that they are being more careful and taking fewer risks. The elderly are also financially vulnerable and may benefit from less financial risk taking in protecting their available resources.

 

So, protect the brain from age-related atrophy with Tai Chi.

 

regular practice of Tai Chi could play an important role in promoting both brain and muscle health in older adults. Tai Chi is a mind-body exercise worth exploring at any age.” – Marilyn Wei

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available at the Contemplative Studies Blog http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/

They are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Liu S, Li L, Liu Z and Guo X (2019) Long-Term Tai Chi Experience Promotes Emotional Stability and Slows Gray Matter Atrophy for Elders. Front. Psychol. 10:91. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091

 

Brain adverse structural changes, especially the atrophy of gray matter, are inevitable in aging. Fortunately, the human brain is plastic throughout its entire life. The current cross-section study aimed to investigate whether long-term Tai Chi exercise could slow gray matter atrophy and explore the possible links among gray matter volume (GMV), long-term Tai Chi experience and emotional stability in a sequential risk-taking task by using voxel-based morphometry. Elders with long-term Tai Chi experience and controls, who were matched to Tai Chi group in age, gender, physical activity level, participated in the study. A T1-weighted multiplanar reconstruction sequence was acquired for each participant. Behaviorally, the Tai Chi group showed higher meditation level, stronger emotional stability and less risk-taking tendency in the sequential risk-taking compared to the control group. Moreover, the results revealed that the GMV of the thalamus and hippocampus were larger in the Tai Chi group compared with the control group. Notably, the GMV of the thalamus was positively correlated with both meditation level and emotional stability. The current study suggested the protective role of long-term Tai Chi exercise at slowing gray matter atrophy, improving the emotional stability and achieving successful aging for elders.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00091/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_907099_69_Psycho_20190212_arts_A

 

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Online Meditation Practice

Improve Mental Health in Older Adults with Online Meditation Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The good news is that there are steps we can take right now to make the goal of “aging gracefully” more attainable. Mindfulness training is one of those steps; research has clearly shown that regular meditation comes with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional health benefits should particularly interest seniors.” – Mindworks

 

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

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to improve mental health in the elderly. In addition, the elderly frequently have mobility issues and going to a treatment facility may be challenging. A promising alternative is online mindfulness programs. It is not known, however, whether these will be acceptable and effective in elderly populations.

 

In today’s Research News article “Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313401/pdf/medicines-05-00119.pdf ), Wahbeh and colleagues recruited older adults aged 55 to 80 years who were not currently meditators and demonstrated symptoms of depression. They were randomly assigned either to a wait list control group or to receive 6 weeks of online 1-hour once a week meditation training with 20 minutes daily guided meditations to be practiced at their convenience. Meditation included both body scan and sitting meditations. The participants were measured before and after training and 7 weeks later for mindfulness depression, resilience, spiritual experiences, insomnia, pain, perceived stress, and satisfaction with the intervention.

 

They found that in comparison to the baseline and the wait list control participants after meditation practice there were significant reductions in depression, insomnia, perceived stress, and pain interference, and significant increases in spirituality. These effects were maintained at follow-up 7 weeks after the end of treatment.

 

These are important findings. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques require a certified trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. The online mindfulness training program has tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. These advantages are particularly important for elderly individuals. In addition, there is evidence that mindfulness programs delivered online can be quite effective.

 

The current findings demonstrate that online meditation training can be successfully implemented with older adults with symptoms of depression and that this program can produce significant improvements in the mental health of the participants. This suggests that such programs can be widely and inexpensively distributed over the internet to improve the well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve mental health in older adults with online meditation practice.

 

Meditation – not just medication – is an effective treatment for elderly patients with late-life depression.” – Jennifer Bieman

 

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

 

Helané Wahbeh. Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) Improves Depression Symptoms in Older Adults. Medicines (Basel) 2018 Dec; 5(4): 119. Published online 2018 Nov 2. doi: 10.3390/medicines5040119

 

Abstract: Background: Older adults have fewer physiological reserves and are more likely to be affected by stress. Mindfulness meditation has the potential to be an effective treatment for depression, but little research has been conducted on older adults. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate depression symptom changes in older adults (55–80 years old) taking an Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) compared to a waitlist control. The secondary aims were to collect data on pain, perceived stress, resilience, mindfulness, sleep quality, and spirituality. Methods: Fifty older adults were randomized to either the Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention, a six-week online intervention with daily home practice, or a waitlist control. Measures were collected at baseline, after the six-week intervention period, and again six weeks later after the waitlist participants completed IMMI. Adherence to home practice was objectively measured with iMINDr. Changes in outcomes for the IMMI and waitlist participants were compared. All participants who completed IMMI were then combined for a within-participant analysis. Results: Adherence to the intervention was low, likely due to a traumatic event in the local area of the participants. Compared to the waitlist participants, those in IMMI had improved depression symptoms (p < 0.00005), perceived stress (p = 0.0007), insomnia symptoms (p = 0.0009), and pain severity (p = 0.05). In the within-participant analysis of all data before and after IMMI (i.e., those initially randomized to IMMI and waitlist participants who took it), we found improvements in depression symptoms (p = 0.0001), perceived stress (p = 0.0001), insomnia symptoms (p < 0.00005), pain interference (p = 0.003), and spirituality (p = 0.018). A seven-week follow-up after the original six-week IMMI program showed sustained improvements in the IMMI participants. Conclusions: IMMI improved depression and related symptoms compared to controls despite minimal support from study staff. IMMI offers a low-dose, low-cost, easily accessible mindfulness meditation intervention for older adults with depression symptoms.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6313401/pdf/medicines-05-00119.pdf

 

Reduce Spinal Degeneration in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

Reduce Spinal Degeneration in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi has been studied as a form of therapeutic exercise and has been shown to improve balance and prevent falls in the elderly.  It can also be a safe and effective way to improve leg strength, hip range of motion, and posture, and is a gentle way to improve neck, shoulder and arm range of motion and movement patterns. The integration of breathing, movement, and energy awareness aspects of this exercise form equates to a “spine-healthy” activity.” – Denver Back Pain

 

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. A consequence of the physical decline is impaired balance. It is a particular problem as it can lead to falls. The spine also deteriorates and with age there can be degeneration of the vertebrae and discs.

 

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. Tai Chi is also known to improve spinal health. So, it would seem reasonable to examine the ability of Tai Chi practice to slow or prevent age related increases in the degeneration of the vertebrae and discs.

 

In today’s Research News article “.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5971519/ ), Deng and Xia recruited long-term Tai Chi practitioners between the ages of 50 to 70 years and a group of non-practitioners who were matched for gender, age, weight, height, and body mass index (BMI). All participants underwent a lumbar vertebral Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The images were evaluated by a blinded radiologist for “lumbar vertebrae with degeneration (osteoporosis, hyperosteogeny) and lumbar discs with degeneration (low signal intensity, herniation).”

 

They found that the Tai Chi practitioners had significantly fewer (27%) degenerated vertebra and significantly fewer (21%) degenerated discs than the matched control participants. The authors attributed the lower amount of degeneration to the strengthening of back muscles that is produced by Tai Chi Practice.

 

This study does not contain randomized groups with manipulated Tai Chi participation. As such, conclusions regarding causation need to be tempered. It is possible that people who have or are prone to lumbar degeneration are the people who do not engage in Tai Chi practice. Randomized Clinical Research is needed to clarify this point.

 

But, those older adults who practiced Tai Chi clearly had less lumbar degeneration. This suggests that this group will have enhanced spinal health and will experience less debilitating back pain as they age.

 

So, reduce spinal degeneration in the elderly with Tai Chi practice.

 

“Strengthening the back stabilizer muscles is very similar to tai chi training. The key is an upright posture, using abdominal breathing, and exercising the stabilizers through the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominus muscles. This is one of the major reasons why tai chi works so well for back pain.” – Kelly Rehan

 

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

 

Deng, C., & Xia, W. (2017). Effect of Tai Chi Chuan on degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs in middle-aged and aged people: a cross-sectional study based on magnetic resonance images. The Journal of international medical research, 46(2), 578-585.

 

Short abstract

Objective

Exercise has a positive effect on physical fitness. Tai Chi Chuan is a traditional Chinese aerobic exercise. We assessed the effect of Tai Chi on the degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs with magnetic resonance images.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study involved 2 groups of participants: 27 Tai Chi practitioners with more than 4 years of experience with regular Tai Chi exercise and 24 sex- and age-matched participants without Tai Chi experience. The lumbar magnetic resonance images of all participants were collected. The numbers of degenerated lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs were evaluated by the same radiologist, who was blind to the grouping.

Results

The Tai Chi practitioners had significantly fewer degenerated lumbar vertebrae (1.9) and lumbar discs (2.3) than the control group (2.6 and 2.9, respectively). The most severely affected lumbar vertebrae and discs were L5 and L4/L5, respectively.

Conclusion

Regular performance of the simplified Tai Chi 24 form could possibly retard the degeneration of lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs in middle-aged and aged people.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5971519/

 

Reduce Aging Cognitive Decline with Mindfulness

Reduce Aging Cognitive Decline with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We know that approximately 50 percent of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment—the intermediate stage between the expected declines of normal aging and the more serious cognitive deterioration associated with dementia—may develop dementia within five years.” – Rebecca Erwin Wells

 

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

 

Before active dementia occurs, patients show problems with attention, thinking, and memory known as mild cognitive impairment. Intervening at this point may be able to delay or even prevent full blown dementia, So, it is important to study the effectiveness of mindfulness training on older adults with mild cognitive impairment to improve their cognitive performance.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Mindfulness on Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6159696/ ), Wong and colleagues recruited healthy older adults (> 60 years of age) who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and were meditation naïve. They participated in an 8-week, 1.5 hours per week, program of mindfulness training that included body scan meditation, breath meditation, loving kindness meditation, and everyday mindfulness practice. The participants were also encouraged to practice at home. They were measured before and after training and one year later for cognitive function, psychological health, mindfulness, mindfulness adherence, and daily living functionality.

 

They found that after training the participants had significant improvements in mindfulness and cognitive function. These improvements were no longer significant at the one year follow up. This appears, however, to be due to the level of continuing practice as the greater the amount of meditation practice during the 1-year follow-up period the greater the level of cognitive function. Indeed, those who practiced above the group average had significantly better cognitive performance at the 1-year follow-up than those who were below average in practicing.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training produces significant cognitive benefits for elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairments. But continued practice is necessary to maintain the benefits. Hence, long-term mindfulness practice may be able to restrain further cognitive decline in these patients and may delay or prevent the onset of dementia. It is clear however, that continuing mindfulness practice is required.

 

So, reduce aging cognitive decline with mindfulness.

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Wong, W. P., Coles, J., Chambers, R., Wu, D. B., & Hassed, C. (2017). The Effects of Mindfulness on Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease reports, 1(1), 181-193. doi:10.3233/ADR-170031

 

Abstract

Background:

The current lack of an effective cure for dementia would exacerbate its prevalence and incidence globally. Growing evidence has linked mindfulness to cognitive and psychological improvements that could be relevant for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Objective:

To investigate whether mindfulness practice can improve health outcomes of MCI.

Methods:

The study is the first longitudinal mixed-methods observational study with a one-year follow-up period, that customized an eight-week group-based mindfulness training program for older adults with MCI (n = 14). Measures included cognitive function, psychological health, trait mindfulness, adherence to mindfulness practice, and everyday activities functioning as assessed at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and one-year follow-up. Repeated measures ANOVAs, Pearson’s correlation analyses, and Mann-Whitney U tests were performed.

Results:

The MCI participants showed significant improvements in cognitive function (p < 0.05) and trait mindfulness (p < 0.05) after completing the intervention. Between program intervention and one-year follow-up (59 weeks), positive correlations were found between their cognitive function (p < 0.05) and everyday activities functioning (p < 0.05) with the duration of mindfulness meditation; and between trait mindfulness and the level of informal mindfulness practice (p < 0.05). Those who meditated more during these 59 weeks, showed greater improvements in cognitive function (p < 0.05) and everyday activities functioning (p < 0.05), with large effect sizes at the one-year follow-up. Qualitative findings will be reported separately.

Conclusion:

Long-term mindfulness practice may be associated with cognitive and functional improvements for older adults with MCI. Mindfulness training could be a potential efficacious non-pharmacological therapeutic intervention for MCI.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6159696/

Reduce Falls in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

Reduce Falls in the Elderly with Tai Chi Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Seniors who practice tai chi – a Chinese meditation practice that combines deep breathing and slow, fluid movements – may be less likely to fall than their peers who don’t do this type of exercise.” – Lisa Rapaport

 

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 a Therapeutic Tai Ji Quan Intervention vs a Multimodal Exercise Intervention to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults at High Risk of Falling: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6233748/ ), Harmer and colleagues recruited  health elderly individuals, 70 years of age or older, who had fallen at least once in the last year and randomly assigned them to one of three groups, Tai Chi, stretching exercise, or multimodal exercise including aerobic exercise, balance, flexibility, and strength exercises. All groups practiced twice a week for 1 hour for 24 weeks. The participants were measured before, in the middle, at the end of training, and monthly follow-up telephone calls for falls, fall injuries, physical performance, and cognitive function.

 

They found that during the 12 weeks of training and 6-month follow-up period that the group that practiced Tai Chi had significantly fewer falls and fewer falls that caused moderate or serious injuries than the multimodal exercise group which, in turn, had fewer falls and injuries than the stretching group. In addition, at the end of training the participants in the Tai Chi group and the multimodal exercise group had significantly greater improvements in cognitive and physical performance than the stretching group.

 

The results are interesting and important. They suggest that engaging in Tai Chi exercise reduces falls and improves physical and cognitive performance in the elderly and that Tai Chi exercise is superior to multimodal exercise and stretching in reducing falls. This is important because of the comparisons of types of exercise showed a significant superiority for Tai Chi Exercise. They are also important because of the severity of the consequences of falling for longevity, health, and well-being of the elderly. As an additional bonus Tai Chi exercise appears to reduce the cognitive decline that routinely occurs with aging.

 

It is important to recognize that Tai Chi is a gentle and safe exercise that is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, such as stroke recovery. Also, Tai Chi is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle exercise to prevent falls in the elderly and improve their physical and cognitive health and well-being.

 

So, reduce falls in the elderly with Tai Chi practice.

 

Balance training based on the Chinese martial arts discipline tai ji quan — better known as tai chi — reduced falling risks among the elderly more than conventional forms of exercise.” – Ashley Lyles

 

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., Fitzgerald, K., Eckstrom, E., Akers, L., Chou, L. S., Pidgeon, D., Voit, J., … Winters-Stone, K. (2018). Effectiveness of a Therapeutic Tai Ji Quan Intervention vs a Multimodal Exercise Intervention to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults at High Risk of Falling: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA internal medicine, 178(10), 1301-1310.

 

Key Points

Question

Is a fall prevention–specific tai ji quan intervention clinically more effective in reducing falls among older adults at high risk of falling than a stretching intervention (control) or a standard multimodal exercise intervention?

Findings

In a randomized clinical trial involving 670 adults 70 years or older with a history of falls or impaired mobility, the therapeutic tai ji quan intervention effectively reduced falls by 58% compared with the stretching exercise (control intervention) and by 31% compared with a multimodal exercise intervention.

Meaning

For older adults at high risk of falling, a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention was more effective than stretching or multimodal exercises in reducing the incidence of falls.

Question

Is a fall prevention–specific tai ji quan intervention clinically more effective in reducing falls among older adults at high risk of falling than a stretching intervention (control) or a standard multimodal exercise intervention?

Findings

In a randomized clinical trial involving 670 adults 70 years or older with a history of falls or impaired mobility, the therapeutic tai ji quan intervention effectively reduced falls by 58% compared with the stretching exercise (control intervention) and by 31% compared with a multimodal exercise intervention.

Meaning

For older adults at high risk of falling, a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention was more effective than stretching or multimodal exercises in reducing the incidence of falls.

Question

Is a fall prevention–specific tai ji quan intervention clinically more effective in reducing falls among older adults at high risk of falling than a stretching intervention (control) or a standard multimodal exercise intervention?

Findings

In a randomized clinical trial involving 670 adults 70 years or older with a history of falls or impaired mobility, the therapeutic tai ji quan intervention effectively reduced falls by 58% compared with the stretching exercise (control intervention) and by 31% compared with a multimodal exercise intervention.

Meaning

For older adults at high risk of falling, a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention was more effective than stretching or multimodal exercises in reducing the incidence of falls.

 

Abstract

Importance

Falls in older adults are a serious public health problem associated with irreversible health consequences and responsible for a substantial economic burden on health care systems. However, identifying optimal choices from among evidence-based fall prevention interventions is challenging as few comparative data for effectiveness are available.

Objective

To determine the effectiveness of a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan intervention, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance (TJQMBB), developed on the classic concept of tai ji (also known as tai chi), and a multimodal exercise (MME) program relative to stretching exercise in reducing falls among older adults at high risk of falling.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A single-blind, 3-arm, parallel design, randomized clinical trial (February 20, 2015, to January 30, 2018), in 7 urban and suburban cities in Oregon. From 1147 community-dwelling adults 70 years or older screened for eligibility, 670 who had fallen in the preceding year or had impaired mobility consented and were enrolled. All analyses used intention-to-treat assignment.

Interventions

One of 3 exercise interventions: two 60-minute classes weekly for 24 weeks of TJQMBB, entailing modified forms and therapeutic movement exercises; MME, integrating balance, aerobics, strength, and flexibility activities; or stretching exercises.

Main Outcomes and Measures

The primary measure at 6 months was incidence of falls.

Results

Among 670 participants randomized, mean (SD) age was 77.7 (5.6) years, 436 (65%) were women, 617 (92.1%) were white, 31 (4.6%) were African American. During the trial, there were 152 falls (85 individuals) in the TJQMBB group, 218 (112 individuals) in the MME group, and 363 (127 individuals) in the stretching exercise group. At 6 months, the incidence rate ratio (IRR) was significantly lower in the TJQMBB (IRR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.31-0.56; P < .001) and MME groups (IRR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.45-0.80; P = .001) compared with the stretching group. Falls were reduced by 31% for the TJQMBB group compared with the MME group (IRR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.52-0.94; P = .01).

Conclusions and Relevance

Among community-dwelling older adults at high risk for falls, a therapeutically tailored tai ji quan balance training intervention was more effective than conventional exercise approaches for reducing the incidence of falls.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6233748/Importance

 

Improve Health with Qigong

Improve Health with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

The health benefits from Qigong and Tai Chi comes about both by supporting the body’s natural tendency to return to balance and equilibrium and also gently yet profoundly creating strength, flexibility and balance in the muscles and joints through gentle flowing movements.” – Denise Nagel

 

Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong and Tai Chi training are 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 Qigong practice been scrutinized with empirical research. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammationincrease the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function.

 

Because Qigong 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. So, with indications of so many benefits it makes sense to step back and review the research on the effects of Qigong training on health and well-being.

 

In today’s Research News article “Beneficial Effects of Qigong Wuqinxi in the Improvement of Health Condition, Prevention, and Treatment of Chronic Diseases: Evidence from a Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220394/ ), Guo and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effects of Qigong practice on physical and psychological health. They found 28 published research studies.

 

They report that the research finds that Qigong practice by healthy adults produces improvements in cognitive functions including concentration and attention, strengthens the immune system, improves body shape and size, physical function, and the cardiovascular system, improves mood and psychological well-being, improves lipid metabolism, slows physiological indicators of aging, and reduces inflammation. For clinical populations, they report that the research indicates that Qigong practice reduces depression, and improves osteoarthritis, including knee osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome, and blood fat levels.

 

Conclusions from these very exciting findings must be tempered as the research methodologies were often weak. More tightly controlled studies are needed. Regardless, these findings suggest that Qigong practice produces improved physical and psychological health in both healthy adults and people with mental and physical diseases. These are a remarkable set of benefits from this simple practice and suggest the reason why it has continued to be practiced by large numbers of people for hundreds of years. Hence, this simple, inexpensive, convenient, safe, and fun practice may improve the participants ability to successfully conduct their lives, improving health and well-being.

 

So, improve health with Qigong.

 

“A compelling body of research emerges when Tai Chi studies and the growing body of Qigong studies are combined. The evidence suggests that a wide range of health benefits accrue in response to these meditative movement forms.” – Dr. Mercola

 

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

 

Guo, Y., Xu, M., Wei, Z., Hu, Q., Chen, Y., Yan, J., & Wei, Y. (2018). Beneficial Effects of Qigong Wuqinxi in the Improvement of Health Condition, Prevention, and Treatment of Chronic Diseases: Evidence from a Systematic Review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 3235950. doi:10.1155/2018/3235950

 

Abstract

Purpose

Qigong is a modality of traditional Chinese mind-body medicine that has been used to prevent and cure ailments, to improve health in China for thousands of years. Wuqinxi, a Chinese traditional Qigong that focuses on mind-body integration, is thought to be an effective exercise in promoting physical and mental wellbeing. Thus, we summarized the evidence and aim to unravel effects of Wuqinxi on health outcomes.

Methods

We performed a systematic review of Wuqinxi studies published in English or Chinese since 1979. Relevant English and Chinese language electronic data bases were used for literature search. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers.

Results

A total of 28 eligible studies were included in this review, among which three are 3 in English and 25 in Chinese. The studies included in this review involve three different experimental designs: (1) 16 RCTs; (2) 2 historical cohort studies; and (3) 10 pretest and posttest studies (PPS). Participants in this review are categorized as either healthy or clinical populations. The results from this systematic review support the notion that Wuqinxi may be effective as an adjunctive rehabilitation method for improving psychological and physiological wellbeing among different age of healthy populations in addition to alleviating and treating diseases among various clinical populations.

Conclusion

The results indicated that Wuqinxi has been thought to be beneficial to improve health and treat chronic diseases. However, the methodological problems in the majority of included studies make it difficult to draw firm conclusive statements. More methodologically rigorous designed large-scale RCTs with a long-term follow-up assessment should be further conducted to examine the effects of Wuqixi on health-related parameters and disease-specific measures in different health conditions. This systematic review lends insight for future studies on Wuqinxi and its potential application in preventive and rehabilitation medicine.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220394/

 

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

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

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

Qigong is gentle and safe mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Qigong practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle mindfulness training and light exercise to improve physical and psychological health in aging individuals.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

 

Improve Cognition and Reduce Age-related Cognitive Decline with Meditation

Improve Cognition and Reduce Age-related Cognitive Decline with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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