Improve Health Behaviors in Adolescents with Mindfulness

Improve Health Behaviors in Adolescents with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Your teenager may react with skepticism at first when you suggest meditation. But, with all the noise in the world and on the internet these days, teens can definitely benefit from taking time to quiet the noise and meditate. It’s a handy practice that can help them through all kinds of confusing and stressful situations in life.” – Cleveland Clinic

 

We tend to think that illness is produced by physical causes, disease, injury, viruses, bacteria, etc. But, many health problems are behavioral problems or have their origins in maladaptive behavior. This is evident in car accident injuries that are frequently due to behaviors, such as texting while driving, driving too fast or aggressively, or driving drunk. Other problematic behaviors are cigarette smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or unprotected sex. Problems can also be produced by lack of appropriate behavior such as sedentary lifestyle, not eating a healthy diet, not getting sufficient sleep or rest, or failing to take medications according to the physician’s orders. Additionally, behavioral issues can be subtle contributors to disease such as denying a problem and failing to see a physician timely or not washing hands. In fact, many modern health issues, costing the individual or society billions of dollars each year, and reducing longevity, are largely preventable. Hence, promoting healthy behaviors and eliminating unhealthy ones has the potential to markedly improve health.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to promote health and improve illness. It is well established that if patterns and habits of healthy behaviors can be established early in life, long-term health can be promoted and ill health can be prevented. In today’s Research News article “Integrating mindfulness training in school health education to promote healthy behaviors in adolescents: Feasibility and preliminary effects on exercise and dietary habits.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840835/ ), Salmoirago-Blotcher and colleagues explore the relationship of mindfulness to health behaviors in adolescents.

 

They recruited 9th grade classes in two high schools and assigned one to receive either 6-months of the usual health education class for 45 minutes 4 days per week combined with mindfulness training for 45 minutes one day per week or to receive the 4 days health education plus 1-day attention control. Students were measured before and after the 6-month training period for physical activity and dietary intake. Over the 6-month training period class attendance was high at 96%.

 

They did not find differences between groups before and after training for students who had low physical activity at baseline and did not find differences in dietary intakes. But, for students, particularly males, who were physically active at baseline participation in the health education plus mindfulness class produced significant increases in activity levels at the end of training. This was not true for the health education plus attention control condition.

 

These findings suggest that incorporating mindfulness training into the health education curriculum may increase health behaviors in adolescents. It is unfortunate that this intervention did not appear to work with the students who needed it the most, the sedentary students and did not work for dietary intake, with overweight and obesity a major problem. Perhaps a more refined and targeted program my work with this group. Unfortunately, the research did not explore other known benefits of mindfulness training for adolescents such as psychological health. This should be explored with future research. Regardless, the results suggest that mindfulness training should be further explored to increase health behaviors in adolescents. Strengthening these behaviors at a relatively early age may have positive health consequences throughout their lives.

 

So, improve health behaviors in adolescents with mindfulness.

 

“Qualitative data collection reveals that adolescents are less anxious and sleep better after doing yoga; in addition, their self-awareness and ease in their body increase, and their worldview begins to shift toward a more positive alignment.” – Sat Bir S. Khalsa

 

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

 

Salmoirago-Blotcher, E., Druker, S., Frisard, C., Dunsiger, S. I., Crawford, S., Meleo-Meyer, F., … Pbert, L. (2018). Integrating mindfulness training in school health education to promote healthy behaviors in adolescents: Feasibility and preliminary effects on exercise and dietary habits. Preventive Medicine Reports, 9, 92–95. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.01.009

 

Abstract

Whether mindfulness training (MT) could improve healthy behaviors is unknown. This study sought to determine feasibility and acceptability of integrating MT into school-based health education (primary outcomes) and to explore its possible effects on healthy behaviors (exploratory outcomes). Two high schools in Massachusetts (2014–2015) were randomized to health education plus MT (HE-MT) (one session/week for 8 weeks) or to health education plus attention control (HE-AC). Dietary habits (24-h dietary recalls) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA/7-day recalls) were assessed at baseline, end of treatment (EOT), and 6 months thereafter. Quantile regression and linear mixed models were used, respectively, to estimate effects on MVPA and dietary outcomes adjusting for confounders. We recruited 53 9th graders (30 HEM, 23 HEAC; average age 14.5, 60% white, 59% female). Retention was 100% (EOT) and 96% (6 months); attendance was 96% (both conditions), with moderate-to-high satisfaction ratings. Among students with higher MVPA at baseline, MVPA was higher in HE-MT vs. HE-AC at both EOT (median difference = 81 min/week, p = 0.005) and at 6 months (p = 0.004). Among males, median MVPA was higher (median difference = 99 min/week) in HE-MT vs. HEAC at both EOT (p = 0.056) and at 6 months (p = 0.04). No differences were noted in dietary habits. In sum, integrating school-based MT into health education was feasible and acceptable and had promising effects on MVPA among male and more active adolescents. These findings suggest that MT may improve healthy behaviors in adolescents and deserve to be reproduced in larger, rigorous studies.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840835/

 

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

Improve Student Mental Health with a Mindfulness App

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.” – Julieta Galante

 

In the modern world education is a key for success. Where a high school education was sufficient in previous generations, a college degree is now required to succeed in the new knowledge-based economies. There is a lot of pressure on students to excel so that they can be admitted to the best universities and there is a lot of pressure on university students to excel so that they can get the best jobs after graduation. As a result, parents and students are constantly looking for ways to improve student performance in school.

 

The primary tactic has been to pressure the student and clear away routine tasks and chores so that the student can focus on their studies. But, this might in fact be counterproductive as the increased pressure can actually lead to stress and anxiety which can impede performance. A better tactic may be the development of mindfulness skills with contemplative practices. These practices and high levels of mindfulness have been shown to be helpful in coping with the school environment and for the performance of both students and teachers. So, perhaps, mindfulness training may provide the needed edge in college academic performance.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces costs that many students and counseling centers 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 busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, Smartphone Apps have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps.

 

In today’s Research News article “Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/ ), Lee and Jung recruited university students and randomly assigned them to either a wait-list condition or to work with a mindfulness app (DeStressify) for a month, 5 days per week for 3 to 20 minutes per day. They were measured before and after the training period for perceived stress, anxiety, depression, sleep quality, health-related quality of life, work productivity, and app use.

 

They found that after mindfulness app training the students reported significant reductions in perceived stress, fatigue, and anxiety and significant increases in general health-related quality of life, energy, and productivity. A lack in the study was that mindfulness was not measured. So, it cannot be concluded that improvements in mindfulness produced by the App was responsible for the benefits. Nevertheless, these are interesting and potentially important results. They suggest that the use of a mindfulness app by university students can provide improvements in physical and mental health and productivity. This can be important for the students’ success in school by making them more energetic and healthy and with less emotional disruption.

 

This is particularly important as the app does not require expensive staff time. It can be used at the busy students’ convenience in both location and time. And it is very easy and inexpensive to use and can be distributed widely. Given the mindfulness app can also improve the students’ well-being, it would seem ideal for use by college students.

 

So, improve student mental health with a mindfulness App.

 

“If you have unproductive worries, you can train yourself to experience those thoughts completely differently. “You might think ‘I’m late, I might lose my job if I don’t get there on time, and it will be a disaster!’ Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self,’” – Elizabeth Hoge

 

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

 

Lee, R. A., & Jung, M. E. (2018). Evaluation of an mHealth App (DeStressify) on University Students’ Mental Health: Pilot Trial. JMIR Mental Health, 5(1), e2. http://doi.org/10.2196/mental.8324

 

Abstract

Background

One in five Canadians experience mental health issues with those in the age range of 15 to 24 years being most at risk of a mood disorder. University students have shown significantly higher rates of mental health problems than the general public. Current university support services are limited by factors such as available staff and finances, and social stigma has frequently been identified as an additional barrier that prevents students from accessing these resources. Mobile health (mHealth) apps are one form of alternative health support that is discrete and accessible to students, and although they are recognized as a promising alternative, there is limited research demonstrating their efficacy.

Objective

The aim of this study was to evaluate a mindfulness-based app’s (“DeStressify”) efficacy on stress, anxiety, depressive symptomology, sleep behavior, work or class absenteeism, work or school productivity, and quality of life (QoL) among university students.

Methods

Full-time undergraduate students at a Canadian university with smartphones and Internet access were recruited through in-class announcements and on-campus posters. Participants randomized into an experimental condition were given and instructed to use the DeStressify app 5 days a week for 4 weeks. Control condition participants were wait-listed. All participants completed pre- and postintervention Web-based surveys to self-assess stress, anxiety, depressive symptomatology, sleep quality, and health-related QoL.

Results

A total of 206 responses were collected at baseline, with 163 participants completing the study (86 control, 77 experimental). Using DeStressify was shown to reduce trait anxiety (P=.01) and improve general health (P=.001), energy (P=.01), and emotional well-being (P=.01) in university students, and more participants in the experimental condition believed their productivity improved between baseline and postintervention measurements than the number of participants expected to believe so randomly by chance (P=.01). The app did not significantly improve stress, state anxiety, physical and social functioning, and role limitations because of physical or emotional health problems or pain (P>.05).

Conclusions

Mindfulness-based apps may provide an effective alternative support for university students’ mental health. Universities and other institutions may benefit from promoting the use of DeStressify or other mindfulness-based mHealth apps among students who are interested in methods of anxiety management or mindfulness-based self-driven health support. Future steps include examining DeStressify and similar mHealth apps over a longer period and in university staff and faculty.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801522/

 

Improve Psychological Health with Dynamic Mindfulness

Improve Psychological Health with Dynamic Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“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

 

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.

 

“Langerian mindfulness is defined as the process of paying attention on purpose to the present moment, of being aware of novelty in experiences or situations, and of perceiving differences in contexts and events.” This is a more dynamic view of mindfulness than the view contained in most measures of mindfulness. It includes the classic idea of mindfulness but also extends it to include impermanence and the ever-changing nature of reality. It emphasizes the continuous dynamic change that produces novelty in every present moment. This view of mindfulness, however, has not been examined for its benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “Langerian mindfulness, quality of life and psychological symptoms in a sample of Italian students.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801901/ ), Pagnini and colleagues examine the relationship of Langerian mindfulness with psychological well-being. They recruited college students and measured their levels of mindfulness with the Langer Mindfulness Scale. In addition, the students completed measures of quality of life, including physical, psychological, social relationships, and environment dimensions, and measures of psychological symptoms, including somatization, obsessive compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation and psychoticism.

 

They found that the higher the levels of Langerian mindfulness, including novelty seeking, novelty producing, and particularly engagement, the higher the levels of physical and psychological health, and the lower the levels of psychological symptoms, including obsessive compulsive disorder, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, hostility, and phobic anxiety. The study was correlational, so no conclusions regarding causation can be reached.

 

The results indicate that Langerian mindfulness is associated with higher levels of physical and mental health. This further suggests that maintaining openness and attention to novelty throughout one’s daily life is associated with mental and physical wellness. It is not clear whether this dynamic, Langerian, view of mindfulness produces clear associations than the classic more static mindfulness view. It remains for future research to compare the two approaches and actively manipulate their levels through training to conclusively demonstrate that Langerian mindfulness causes improvements in mental and physical health.

 

So, improve psychological health with dynamic mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.” – Mark Williams

 

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

 

Francesco Pagnini, Katherine E. Bercovitz, Deborah Phillips. Langerian mindfulness, quality of life and psychological symptoms in a sample of Italian students. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2018; 16: 29. Published online 2018 Feb 6. doi: 10.1186/s12955-018-0856-4

 

Abstract

Background

Noticing new things, accepting the continuously changing nature of circumstances, and flexibly shifting perspectives in concert with changing contexts constitute the essential features of Langerian mindfulness. This contrasts with a “mindless” approach in which one remains fixed in a singular mindset and is closed off to new possibilities. Despite potentially important clinical applications for this construct, few studies have explored them. The instrument developed to measure Langerian mindfulness is the Langer Mindfulness Scale (LMS), although this tool has been limited primarily to English-speaking populations. The study aimed to test LMS validity in the Italian language and to analyze the relationships between Langerian mindfulness and well-being.

Methods

We translated the LMS into Italian, analyzed its factor structure, and investigated the correlation between mindfulness and quality of life and psychological well-being in a sample of 248 Italian students (88.7% females, mean age 20.05). A confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the tri-dimensional structure of the English LMS in the Italian version.

Results

The primary analysis found a significant negative correlation between mindfulness and psychological symptoms including obsessive-compulsive tendencies, depression, anxiety, and paranoid ideation. There was also a positive correlation between mindfulness and reports of quality of life.

Conclusions

The Italian LMS appears reliable and it shows relevant correlations with well-being.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5801901/

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

Improve Arthritis with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong techniques are simple and do not need to be carried out precisely to bring about its great benefits. Qigong practice is known for preventing disease, strengthening immunity and producing better health and well-being. However it is under-appreciated, even in China, that Qigong therapy can be effective for relieving pain and treating arthritis.” – Kellen Chia

 

Arthritis is a chronic disease that most commonly affects the joints. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis symptoms may include pain, stiffness, swelling, redness, and decreased range of motion. It affects an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States. It is associated with aging as arthritis occurs in only 7% of adults ages 18–44, while 30% adults ages 45–64 are affected, and 50% of adults ages 65 or older. The pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility associate with arthritis produce fatigue and markedly reduce the quality of life of the sufferers. Arthritis can have very negative psychological effects diminishing the individual’s self-image and may lead to depression, isolation, and withdrawal from friends and social activities Arthritis reduces the individual’s ability to function at work and may require modifications of work activities which can lead to financial difficulties. It even affects the individual’s physical appearance. In addition, due to complications associated with rheumatoid arthritis, particularly cardiovascular disease, the lifespan for people with rheumatoid arthritis may be shortened by 10 years.

 

It is obvious that there is a need for a safe and effective treatment to help rheumatoid arthritis sufferers cope with the disease and its consequences. Increasing exercise has been shown to increase flexibility and mobility but many form of exercise are difficult for the arthritis sufferer to engage in and many drop out. But all that may be needed is gentle movements of the joints. Qigong or Tai Chi training are designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. They have been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, especially for the elderly. Because They are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that Qigong or Tai Chi practice would be well suited to treat arthritis in seniors.

 

In today’s Research News article “Qigong Exercise and Arthritis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/ ), Marks reviewed and summarized the published research on the effectiveness of Qigong practice for the treatment of arthritis. He found that Qigong practice produced significant improvements in the musculoskeletal system including increased strength, joint flexibility, posture, balance motor function, and motor coordination, and improvements in quality of life and cognitive function. In addition, the research reported decreased pain, fatigue, and blood pressure and improved immune function, metabolic function, circulation, aerobic capacity, and reduced falls, improved psychological health, mood, and sleep.

 

These are impressive results. Scientific research suggests that Qigong practice produces  widespread improvements in mental and physical health in arthritis sufferers. In addition, it is inexpensive, convenient, appropriate for individuals of all ages and health condition and is safe to practice, making it an almost ideal treatment for the symptoms of arthritis.

 

So, improve arthritis with Qigong.

 

“Qigong focuses on relaxing the body, which over time, allows the joints and muscles to loosen up, improving the circulation of fluids and blood. The practice focuses on rebuilding overall health and strengthening the spirit, while encouraging one to change the way one looks at life in general, and at the illness affecting you.” – 1MD

 

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

 

Ray Marks. Qigong Exercise and Arthritis. Medicines (Basel) 2017 Dec; 4(4): 71. Published online 2017 Sep 27. doi: 10.3390/medicines4040071

 

Abstract

Background: Arthritis is a chronic condition resulting in considerable disability, particularly in later life. Aims: The first aim of this review was to summarize and synthesize the research base concerning the use of Qigong exercises as a possible adjunctive strategy for promoting well-being among adults with arthritis. A second was to provide related intervention directives for health professionals working or who are likely to work with this population in the future. Methods: Material specifically focusing on examining the nature of Qigong for minimizing arthritis disability, pain and dependence and for improving life quality was sought. Results: Collectively, despite almost no attention to this topic, available data reveal that while more research is indicated, Qigong exercises—practiced widely in China for many centuries as an exercise form, mind-body and relaxation technique—may be very useful as an intervention strategy for adults with different forms of painful disabling arthritis. Conclusion: Health professionals working with people who have chronic arthritis can safely recommend these exercises to most adults with this condition with the expectation they will heighten the life quality of the individual, while reducing pain and depression in adults with this condition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5750595/

Retreat for Health

Retreat for Health

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“retreat confirmed the importance of taking time out of our busy lives to quietly reflect and connect with ourselves. I learned countless lessons that could have only happened through direct experience. Perhaps most importantly, I deeply accepted myself and vowed to continue leaning into my fears.” – Alyssa Siefert

 

Retreat can be a powerful experience. But, in some ways, is like being on vacation. Everything is taken care of, beds made, towels and linens provided, all meals prepared, and time is dictated by a detailed schedule of meditations, talks, question and answer periods, and reflective time. All the individual has to do is show up, meditate, relax, contemplate and listen. The retreatants are terribly spoiled! That seeming ease, however, is deceptive.

 

Retreat is actually quite difficult and challenging. It can be very tiring as it can run from early in the morning till late at night every day. It can also be physically challenging as engaging in sitting meditation repeatedly over the day is guaranteed to produce many aches and pains in the legs, back, and neck. But the real challenges are psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Retreat can be a real test. The darkness can descend. Deep emotional issues can emerge and may even overwhelm the individual. Many participants will spontaneously burst out in tears. Others may become overwhelmed with fear and anxiety and break out in cold sweats, and still others are sleepless and tormented. How can this be, that something so seemingly peaceful as silent retreat can be so emotionally wrenching? The secret is that the situation removes the minds ability to hide and distract.

 

Humans have done a tremendous job of providing distractions for the mind including books, movies, magazines, music, television, sports, amusement parks, surfing the internet, tweeting, texting, etc. Any time troubling thoughts or memories of traumatic experiences begin to emerge in everyday life, the subject can easily be changed by engaging in a distraction. So, the issues never have to truly be confronted. But, in silent retreat there is no escape. Difficult issues emerge and there is no place to hide. They must be confronted and experienced. With all these difficulties, why would anyone want to put themselves through such an ordeal and go on a meditation retreat? People go because they find that retreat produces many profound and sometimes life altering benefits.

 

In today’s Research News article “The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5761096/ ), Naidoo and colleagues review and summarize the effects on health of attending a retreat. They discovered 23 scientific studies of the health effects of retreat of which 8 were randomized controlled trials. These studies included a wide range of participants including healthy individuals and people with mental and physical disorders. The retreats lasted from 2.5 to 15 days with most around a week.

 

They found that without exception the studies reported statistically significant improvements following the retreat in some outcome measures of mental or physical health. These benefits included significant improvements in quality of life, perceived physical health and health symptoms, as well as psychological and spiritual well-being, and even genetic markers of longevity. These benefits appear to last long after the completion of the retreat. So, retreat appears to produce substantial and lasting health benefits.

 

It is very difficult to find appropriate comparison conditions for a retreat or have a retreat with blind participants or researchers. So, there is a considerable risk of bias in all of these studies. Nevertheless, the universal findings of the scientific studies that have investigated the effects of participating in a retreat find significant psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits for healthy or sick individuals.

 

So, retreat for health.

 

“A 1-month Vipassana meditation retreat may yield improvements in mindfulness, affect and personality, even in experienced meditators.” – Montero Marin

 

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

 

Dhevaksha Naidoo, Adrian Schembri, Marc Cohen, The health impact of residential retreats: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018; 18: 8. Published online 2018 Jan 10. doi: 10.1186/s12906-017-2078-4

 

Abstract

Background

Unhealthy lifestyles are a major factor in the development and exacerbation of many chronic diseases. Improving lifestyles though immersive residential experiences that promote healthy behaviours is a focus of the health retreat industry. This systematic review aims to identify and explore published studies on the health, wellbeing and economic impact of retreat experiences.

Methods

MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsychINFO databases were searched for residential retreat studies in English published prior to February 2017. Studies were included if they were written in English, involved an intervention program in a residential setting of one or more nights, and included before-and-after data related to the health of participants. Studies that did not meet the above criteria or contained only descriptive data from interviews or case studies were excluded.

Results

A total of 23 studies including eight randomised controlled trials, six non-randomised controlled trials and nine longitudinal cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. These studies included a total of 2592 participants from diverse geographical and demographic populations and a great heterogeneity of outcome measures, with seven studies examining objective outcomes such as blood pressure or biological makers of disease, and 16 studies examining subjective outcomes that mostly involved self-reported questionnaires on psychological and spiritual measures. All studies reported post-retreat health benefits ranging from immediately after to five-years post-retreat. Study populations varied widely and most studies had small sample sizes, poorly described methodology and little follow-up data, and no studies reported on health economic outcomes or adverse effects, making it difficult to make definite conclusions about specific conditions, safety or return on investment.

Conclusions

Health retreat experiences appear to have health benefits that include benefits for people with chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, various cancers, HIV/AIDS, heart conditions and mental health. Future research with larger numbers of subjects and longer follow-up periods are needed to investigate the health impact of different retreat experiences and the clinical populations most likely to benefit. Further studies are also needed to determine the economic benefits of retreat experiences for individuals, as well as for businesses, health insurers and policy makers.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5761096/

Could Mindfulness Help Save the World?

Could Mindfulness Help Save the World?

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“While the link between mindfulness, nature, and well-being is not concrete, research suggests an interrelationship between these three attributes. This research supports the sense of well-being and renewal I found from meditating in the garden, and perhaps why I sought the garden while taking a course in mindfulness practice.” – Joanna Shaw

 

The ability of humans to manipulate and control the environment has developed to the point that human activity is now threatening to destroy that environment. This can be seen in the rapid extinction of once thriving species, the loss of forestation, the historic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, sea level rise, and climate change. It has been argued that we may have crossed a tipping point where the environmental damage is irreversible. But, if we haven’t, there is a pressing need to address the very activities that are producing the damage. We need to begin acting more responsibly toward our environment in an attempt to reverse and heal the damage,

 

This will require actions by humans. This will require positive ecological behaviors. Ecological behavior is defined “as behaviors that protect/avoid harm to the environment and span all areas of life such as nutrition, mobility and transportation, energy and water consumption, waste avoidance, and consumerism.” In other words, humans need to change their behaviors toward more sustainable patterns.

 

Mindfulness promotes awareness of the internal and external environments. As such, it promotes sensitivity to these environments and to the impact of our actions on ourselves and the environment. In fact, mindfulness has been shown to be associated with the individual’s feelings of connectedness to nature. It is thus possible that mindfulness can stimulate ecological behavior and be a positive force for reversing the damage to our precious environment.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfully Green and Healthy: An Indirect Path from Mindfulness to Ecological Behavior.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02306/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_527044_69_Psycho_20180130_arts_A ), Geiger and colleagues examine the relationship of mindfulness with ecological behavior. They recruited participants from a University community including students, faculty, and staff and had them complete measures of mindfulness, health behaviors, and ecological behaviors. Health behaviors include “behaviors on nutrition, hygiene, stress recovery, risk prevention and physical exercise.” Ecological behaviors include “energy conservation, mobility, waste avoidance and recycling, consumerism, and vicarious, social behaviors toward conservation.”

 

Geiger and colleagues found that high levels of mindfulness were strongly related to high levels of health behaviors, but only moderately related to high levels of ecological behaviors, while health behaviors were strongly related to ecological behaviors. This suggests that mindfulness may be related directly and indirectly to ecological behaviors through the intermediary of health behavior. Indeed, an indirect effects analysis demonstrated exactly that, high levels of mindfulness were associated with high levels of ecological behaviors directly and also indirectly through mindfulness’ associations with health behaviors and in turn ecological behaviors.

 

This study is correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It will remain for future research to demonstrate that increasing mindfulness through mindfulness training increases ecological behaviors. Nevertheless, the study demonstrates clear and strong relationships between mindfulness and behaviors that tend to protect and develop the environment. This further suggests that mindfulness may be a key to saving the planet. Developing mindfulness in the population may lead to the development of sustainable action toward the environment and perhaps reversing the present damage.

 

So, start saving the planet with mindfulness.

 

“Nature and mindfulness inform each other in profound ways. They are both aligned. Nature can provide the same kind of calming, quieting effect, which is enormously therapeutic and joyous for me.” – Mark Tercek

 

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

 

Geiger SM, Otto S and Schrader U (2018) Mindfully Green and Healthy: An Indirect Path from Mindfulness to Ecological Behavior. Front. Psychol. 8:2306. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02306

 

This paper examines the nature of the link between mindfulness and ecological behavior. Based on the notion that mindfulness incorporates heightened awareness of bodily sensations, we suggest an indirect path from mindfulness to ecological behavior that is mediated through individual health behavior, such as improved nutrition and increased exercise. This indirect path is corroborated with two online studies (n = 147/n = 239) where mindfulness, personal health behavior and ecological behavior were assessed. We conclude that increased mindful awareness of momentary experience indeed favors more healthy lifestyles, which in turn relate to increased ecological behavior beyond personal health benefits. The findings support an agreeableness of personal and planetary health behavior and open up a path for environmental educational interventions based on mindfulness practices and personal health gains.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02306/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_527044_69_Psycho_20180130_arts_A

Treat Physical Health Conditions with Mindfulness

Treat Physical Health Conditions with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“A growing body of research now links the Eastern practice to improved conditions for serious ailments, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. How? By “treating the whole person… so they can live in greater health and joy.” – Shauna Shapiro

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research 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.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces 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 busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, on-line mindfulness training programs have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these programs.

 

In today’s Research News article “Web-Based Mindfulness Interventions for People With Physical Health Conditions: Systematic Review.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5599726/, Toivonen and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the effectiveness on on-line mindfulness training programs on the psychological and physical symptoms of chronic diseases. They report on 16 published studies.

 

They found that studies of on-line mindfulness training for the treatment of chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia, demonstrated significant effectiveness for pain coping and the psychological symptoms produced by chronic pain. But, the evidence was inconclusive regarding alterations of experienced pain. Studies of heart disease treatment with on-line mindfulness trainings demonstrated small improvements relative to usual care in exercise tolerance, heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and stress. Studies of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) demonstrated significant effectiveness of on-line mindfulness trainings for the symptoms, quality of life, and psychological distress produced by IBS. Studies of epilepsy demonstrated significant effectiveness of on-line mindfulness trainings for the depression accompanying epilepsy. Studies of Tinnitus demonstrated significant effectiveness of on-line mindfulness trainings for Tinnitus severity, depression, anxiety and perceived stress accompanying Tinnitus. Studies of acquired brain injury demonstrated significant effectiveness of on-line mindfulness trainings for the mental fatigue accompanying acquired brain injury. Studies of cancer survivors demonstrated significant effectiveness of on-line mindfulness trainings for the fatigue, depressed mood, and psychological distress accompanying cancer survival.

 

The published studies found that it did not make a significant difference if the on-line mindfulness training occurred through immediate interaction or with continuously available resources or whether there was an active facilitator or not. Hence, on-line training did not require active participation by a therapist. Effectiveness was present regardless. The materials and not the format or the therapist was important.

 

These are important and exciting results that demonstrate the effectiveness of on-line mindfulness training for the treatment of chronic diseases. Thus, mindfulness trainings can be implemented with high cost-effectiveness, to large numbers of people, without the necessity of a therapist’s involvement, and without the requirement for attendance at particular locations. The results suggest that mindfulness practices can be provided widely and inexpensively to relieve at least some of the suffering produced by a wide variety of chronic diseases.

 

Other research has looked broadly at use of mindfulness-based group therapy compared to individual cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with various conditions including depression, anxiety and stress and adjustment disorders. They found that the mindfulness group therapy as effective as the individual therapy.” – American Psychiatric Association

 

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

 

Toivonen, K. I., Zernicke, K., & Carlson, L. E. (2017). Web-Based Mindfulness Interventions for People With Physical Health Conditions: Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(8), e303. http://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.7487

 

Abstract

Background

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) are becoming increasingly popular for helping people with physical health conditions. Expanding from traditional face-to-face program delivery, there is growing interest in Web-based application of MBIs, though Web-based MBIs for people with physical health conditions specifically have not been thoroughly reviewed to date.

Objective

The objective of this paper was to review Web-based MBIs for people with physical health conditions and to examine all outcomes reported (eg, efficacy or effectiveness for physical changes or psychological changes; feasibility).

Methods

Databases PubMed, PsycINFO, Science Direct, CINAHL Plus, and Web of Science were searched. Full-text English papers that described any Web-based MBI, examining any outcome, for people with chronic physical health conditions were included. Randomized, nonrandomized, controlled, and uncontrolled trials were all included. Extracted data included intervention characteristics, population characteristics, outcomes, and quality indicators. Intervention characteristics (eg, synchronicity and guidance) were examined as potential factors related to study outcomes.

Results

Of 435 publications screened, 19 published papers describing 16 studies were included. They examined Web-based MBIs for people with cancer, chronic pain or fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), epilepsy, heart disease, tinnitus, and acquired brain injury. Overall, most studies reported positive effects of Web-based MBIs compared with usual care on a variety of outcomes including pain acceptance, coping measures, and depressive symptoms. There were mixed results regarding the effectiveness of Web-based MBIs compared with active control treatment conditions such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Condition-specific symptoms (eg, cancer-related fatigue and IBS symptoms) targeted by treatment had the largest effect size improvements following MBIs. Results are inconclusive regarding physical variables.

Conclusions

Preliminary evidence suggests that Web-based MBIs may be helpful in alleviating symptom burden that those with physical health conditions can experience, particularly when interventions are tailored for specific symptoms. There was no evidence of differences between synchronous versus asynchronous or facilitated versus self-directed Web-based MBIs. Future investigations of Web-based MBIs should evaluate the effects of program adherence, effects on mindfulness levels, and whether synchronous or asynchronous, or facilitated or self-directed interventions elicit greater improvements.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5599726/

Improve Health in the Elderly with Yoga

Improve Health in the Elderly with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Yoga, especially restorative yoga, can also offer a wide array of health benefits—working physical and psychological wonders. Seniors, who often struggle with pain, joint stress, imbalance, osteoarthritis, and other physical limitations, can benefit from incorporating a yoga practice into their daily routine.”Melissa Eisler

 

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. 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. 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.

 

Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate methods to slow physical and mental aging and mitigate its effects. 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. It would seem reasonable to hypothesize that yoga practice, which is both a mindfulness practice and a physical exercise, might decrease age related decline.

 

In today’s Research News article “Adapted yoga to improve physical function and health-related quality of life in physically-inactive older adults: a randomised controlled pilot trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5481961/. Tew and colleagues recruited healthy elderly (> 60 years of age) and randomly assigned them to a wait-list control group or to a yoga practice group. Gentle yoga practice occurred in a studio with ten 75-minute sessions over 12 weeks and consisted of standing and sitting postures, meditation, and breathing exercises. Home practice was encouraged. Participants were measured before and after training with a physical performance battery, vital signs, body mass index, health status including mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression, and mental well-being.

 

They found that the yoga practice group, in comparison to the controls, had significant improvements in health status and mental well-being. They also had improved cardiovascular measures of heart rate and blood pressure and improved physical function in lower limb flexibility and speed of rising from a chair. There were no adverse consequences of the yoga practice. Hence, gentle yoga practice was a safe and effective treatment to improve the physical and mental well-being of the elderly.

 

These results are very encouraging as they suggest that yoga practice may be able to partially slow the physical and mental declines with aging. Although, on average, there was some non-significant improvement in balance observed, there was a significant improvement in lower limb flexibility. This may suggest that the program would make falls less likely. Regardless, it appears that yoga practice should be encouraged for the elderly to improve their overall well-being.

 

So, improve health in the elderly with yoga

 

“Yoga refreshes your mind and spirit. Tones your body. Keeps your internal organs and hormonal system in balance. All the more reason for people of all ages to do yoga. In fact, yoga asanas are one of the few physical exercises you can continue doing as you age. As age progresses, it is more important to focus on HOW YOU DO rather than how much you do.” – Art of Living

 

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

 

Tew, G. A., Howsam, J., Hardy, M., & Bissell, L. (2017). Adapted yoga to improve physical function and health-related quality of life in physically-inactive older adults: a randomised controlled pilot trial. BMC Geriatrics, 17, 131. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-017-0520-6

 

Abstract

Background

Yoga is a holistic therapy of expanding popularity, which has the potential to produce a range of physical, mental and social benefits. This trial evaluated the feasibility and effects of an adapted yoga programme on physical function and health-related quality of life in physically-inactive older adults.

Methods

In this randomised controlled pilot trial, 52 older adults (90% female; mean age 74.8 years, SD 7.2) were randomised 1:1 to a yoga programme or wait-list control. The yoga group (n = 25) received a physical activity education booklet and were invited to attend ten yoga sessions during a 12-week period. The control group (n = 27) received the education booklet only. Measures of physical function (e.g., Short Physical Performance Battery; SPPB), health status (EQ-5D) and mental well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale; WEMWBS) were assessed at baseline and 3 months. Feasibility was assessed using course attendance and adverse event data, and participant interviews.

Results

Forty-seven participants completed follow-up assessments. Median class attendance was 8 (range 3 to 10). At the 3-month follow-up, the yoga group had a higher SPPB total score compared with the control group (mean difference 0.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.3 to 2.0), a faster time to rise from a chair five times (mean difference − 1.73 s, 95% CI −4.08 to 0.62), and better performance on the chair sit-and-reach lower-limb flexibility test (mean difference 5 cm, 95% CI 0 to 10). The yoga group also had superior health status and mental well-being (vs. control) at 3 months, with mean differences in EQ-5D and WEMWBS scores of 0.12 (95% CI, 0.03 to 0.21) and 6 (95% CI, 1 to 11), respectively. The interviews indicated that participants valued attending the yoga programme, and that they experienced a range of benefits.

Conclusions

The adapted yoga programme appeared to be feasible and potentially beneficial in terms of improving mental and social well-being and aspects of physical function in physically-inactive older adults. An appropriately-powered trial is required to confirm the findings of the present study and to determine longer-term effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5481961/

Improve Health with Tai Chi or Qigong

Improve Health with Tai Chi or 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. This is the winning combination: body and mind.” – Denise Nagel

 

Qigong and Tai Chi have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityQigong and Tai Chi trainings 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 these practices been scrutinized with empirical research. This research has found that they are effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. They appear to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream, improve cardiovascular healthreduce arthritis painimprove balance and reduce falls. They also appear to improve attentional ability and relieve depression.

 

Qigong and Tai Chi are complex practices embedded in the complexities of life. Research has not begun to address what components of these practices interact with which aspects of health behavior to improve overall well-being. In today’s Research News article “Curriculum, Practice, and Diet Predict Health Among Experienced Taiji and Qigong Practitioners.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761851/, Komelski and colleagues surveyed on the web Tai Chi practitioners with at least 4 years of practice experience to investigate the components of the practice that are most associated with health.

 

The participants answered questions concerning their general health, They measured the frequency of the Tai Chi practice and its’ complexity by the number of four different components included in the participants practice including; (1) stillness practices, (2) iterative practices, such as a mantra, (3) choreography, sequential Tai Chi movements; and (4) partner and prop training. They also measured self-reported diet quality on a scale from ”“poor” indicated daily intake of fast foods, junk foods, and frequent overeating and “excellent” indicated a diet composed mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy sources of protein and calcium, whole grains, rare consumption of fast or junk foods, and infrequent overeating.”

 

They found that the higher the frequency and complexity of the Tai Chi practice and the diet quality the higher the health status of the practitioners. But there were also interactions found between the factors. In particular, when practice frequency was high, its complexity did not matter as a predictor of health status, but when practice frequency was low, the lower the complexity, the worse the health status. In addition, when diet quality was low, practice complexity did not matter as a predictor of health status, but when diet quality was high, the greater the complexity, the better the health status.

 

Remarkably, even though there was a wide range of participant ages, from 24 to 83 years, there was no relationship found between age and health status. Obviously, as people get older there are generally more health problems, but not in this sample of Tai Chi practitioners. This may indicate that Tai Chi practice counteracts the negative effects of aging on health. Indeed, research suggests that Tai Chi practices reduced the cognitive decline, decline in balance, increased blood pressure, and brain deterioration with aging. But, it is also possible that since the participants self-rated their overall health they may have been rating it against their expected health for their age.

 

These findings are interesting but must be interpreted cautiously as these were correlative results and causation cannot be concluded. The results do, however, provide some insights into the relationships of the components of Tai Chi practice with the participants health, the more time practice occurred each week and the more complex the practice the better the health of the practitioner. This suggests that Tai Chi practice may have cumulative effects where the more practice of more components of practice the better the health outcomes particularly when the diet is healthy.

 

So, improve health with tai chi or qigong.

 

“Qigong emphasizes the whole body, whole system health. While it is true that qigong will often cure specific ills, this is not the primary reason for practice. It is not only a matter of adding years to your life, but life to your years.” – Annie Bond

 

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

 

Komelski, M. F., Blieszner, R., & Miyazaki, Y. (2016). Curriculum, Practice, and Diet Predict Health Among Experienced Taiji and Qigong Practitioners. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(2), 154–159. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2015.0071

 

Abstract

Objective: To explore the potential influence of curriculum, frequency of practice, and dietary quality on the health of experienced Taiji and qigong practitioners.

Design: Theoretical and cross-sectional study.

Methods: Responses from a volunteer sample of Taiji practitioners from across the United States were collected using an online survey. The instrument was designed to collect data on health-related quality of life, diet, and Taiji practice regimens. All experienced (≥4 years) practitioners (n = 94; mean age, 55.82 years [range, 24–83 years]) were included in the analysis. Relationships among self-reported health, diet, experience, practice frequency, and curricular complexity were analyzed.

Results: Practitioners’ health status did not show the typical negative association with age and was positively associated with complex curricula, practice, and high-quality diets. Significant interaction effects were seen between (1) curricular complexity and additional practice (p < 0.05) and (2) curricular complexity and diet (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Intervention designers, Taiji teachers, and practitioners should consider the potential influence of curricula, out-of-class practice, and healthy diets for optimizing health-related gains and minimizing age-related losses in interventions and community-based programs.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4761851/

Improve Veteran Health with In-Person and Telehealth Yoga

Improve Veteran Health with In-Person and Telehealth Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The fact that veterans are embracing yoga and realizing its benefits speaks directly to the stigmas attached to both yoga and PTSD. Veterans practicing yoga illuminate the value of the practice for any person, from any walk of life, not just “new-age hippies.” It also demonstrates that suffering trauma that affects our mental health does not break us or make us any less human.” – Dana Santas

 

Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving the physical and psychological condition of otherwise healthy people and also treating the physical and psychological issues of people with illnesses and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as 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 particularly effective. This has led to an increasing adoption of these mindfulness techniques for the health and well-being of both healthy and ill individuals.

 

The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, adopted so far, however, require a certified trained therapist. This produces 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 busy schedules. As a result, there has been attempts to develop alternative distance education approaches such as on-line mindfulness training programs and videoconferencing. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs and making training schedules much more flexible. But, the question arises as to whether these programs are as effective as their traditional counterparts. Many believe that the presence of a therapist is a crucial component to the success of the programs and the lack of an active therapist physically present in on-line or videoconferencing programs may greatly reduce their effectiveness. It is not known if yoga practice can be successfully delivered through distance videoconferencing programs.

 

In today’s Research News article “Results from a clinical yoga program for veterans: yoga via telehealth provides comparable satisfaction and health improvements to in-person yoga.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381127/

Schulz-Heik and colleagues compared the effectiveness of yoga classes provided to veterans with a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. The classes were either in-person or the same class delivered via videoconferencing to a remote site. The classes were offered 13 times per week. The participants were free to attend whichever classes and how many they wanted on their own schedules. All participants who attended any classes during a two-week period were asked to complete a questionnaire on their satisfaction with the classes, global health, and 16 different health symptoms. Satisfaction with classes was demonstrated as 82% rated them excellent and 98% stated that they enjoyed the classes and 98% would recommend them to a friend.

 

They found that the veterans reported significant improvement in a wide range of physical and mental health symptoms, including overall pain, back pain, headache, upset stomach, sleep problems, energy level, irritability, concentration, anger, depression, anxiety, jumpiness, disturbing memories, and other symptoms. Importantly, the in-person and videoconferencing programs demonstrated equal improvements with no significant differences found between them.

 

These are very interesting results but must be interpreted with caution. There was no active control condition. So, the reported benefits might be due to placebo effects, experimenter bias, demand characteristics, etc. The results though are similar to those reported for yoga practice in randomized controlled trials and it is reasonable to conclude that the current yoga program produced similar benefits. Regardless, it is striking that the videoconferencing program was equally effective as the in-person program. This is important as it suggests that inexpensive mindfulness training can be offered to widespread audiences. In addition, videoconferencing training is convenient for the participants, as they do not have to go to a practitioners site on a particular schedule. This, in turn, allows for the application of yoga training for the prevention and treatment of psychological and physical disorders with busy people, low income people, and even people in remote locations, thus greatly expanding the numbers of people who can benefit.

 

“yoga is being increasingly embraced by Veterans Affairs and the military looking to move veterans off addictive painkillers and offer them alternative treatments for pain.” – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux

 

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

Schulz-Heik, R. J., Meyer, H., Mahoney, L., Stanton, M. V., Cho, R. H., Moore-Downing, D. P., … Bayley, P. J. (2017). Results from a clinical yoga program for veterans: yoga via telehealth provides comparable satisfaction and health improvements to in-person yoga. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 17, 198. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-017-1705-4

 

Abstract

Background

Yoga is increasingly popular, though little data regarding its implementation in healthcare settings is available. Similarly, telehealth is being utilized more frequently to increase access to healthcare; however we know of no research on the acceptability or effectiveness of yoga delivered through telehealth. Therefore, we evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and patient-reported effectiveness of a clinical yoga program at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and assessed whether these outcomes differed between those participating in-person and those participating via telehealth.

Methods

Veterans who attended a yoga class at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System were invited to complete an anonymous program evaluation survey.

Results

64 Veterans completed the survey. Participants reported high satisfaction with the classes and the instructors. More than 80% of participants who endorsed a problem with pain, energy level, depression, or anxiety reported improvement in these symptoms. Those who participated via telehealth did not differ from those who participated in-person in any measure of satisfaction, overall improvement (p = .40), or improvement in any of 16 specific health problems.

Conclusions

Delivering yoga to a wide range of patients within a healthcare setting appears to be feasible and acceptable, both when delivered in-person and via telehealth. Patients in this clinical yoga program reported high levels of satisfaction and improvement in multiple problem areas. This preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of a clinical yoga program complements prior evidence for the efficacy of yoga and supports the use of yoga in healthcare settings.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5381127/