Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

Slow Age-Related Physical Decline with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

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

 

Abstract

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

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

Consolidate Motor Memories with Mindfulness

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By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation provides an atmosphere of deep relaxation beneficial to the mind and body, offering myriad physiological effects such as lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate. When the body is extremely relaxed, the mind, nerves and muscles work at an optimum level, allowing for the enhancement of a variety of motor performance skills.” – EOC Institute

 

When most people think of memory they think of verbal memory or episodic memory. They rarely think about motor memory. But, this is a very import facet of human behavior. If they do think of motor memory they usually think of athletic performance. This is indeed a motor memory but is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In fact, the bulk of our behavior from walking to talking involves motor memory. The memories there are so deep that we are generally not aware of them. But pay attention for a moment to the movements involved when you’re walking and you’ll see just how automatized it is, just how much it’s a learned behavior that is stored in motor memory.

 

The process by which what we have learned motorically is transferred to a long-term storage is called consolidation. This process is poorly understood. But, it is known that consolidation works best when there are no competing memories produced shortly after the primary memory. So, rest and even sleep, appear to promote the consolidation of motor memory. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve verbal memory ability. But, little is known regarding the effects of mindfulness practice on motor memory or motor memory consolidation.

 

The ability of meditation to influence the consolidation of motor memory was explored in today’s Research News article “Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1428975463793042/?type=3&theater

or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w45-2016

Immink recruited practiced meditators (between 2 to 25 years of practice, mean = 9 years) and had them learn to press a set of six keys in three unique sequences. Repeated over 120 trials. This was completed at 8:00 in the morning. The participants were then randomly assigned to either a 30-minute yoga nidra meditation condition or a light work (chores) condition that was conducted at noon. At 5:00 in the afternoon participants were tested for performance of the three learned sequences and two new sequence that they had not been previously trained on. They were measured for errors, reaction time to start the sequence and time to complete it.

 

During motor training the two groups did not differ in the number of errors committed, reaction time, and time to complete the sequence. During later testing, the participants who meditated at noon were significantly faster in reacting to and performing the previously learned sequences than the control group but did not differ with the new (untrained) sequences. Hence, meditation appeared to specifically help preserve the previous motor learning, while not affecting new learning. In fact, the meditation group did not lose any speed between training and testing while the control group was 35% slower.

 

These are clear and interesting results. They suggest that meditation promotes the consolidation of motor memories, that is, it tended to protect the memories from deterioration over time. So, mindfulness training appears to promote both verbal and motor memory. This might suggest that meditation might be helpful in preserving all kinds of other motor memories including athletic performance and perhaps physical therapy. It will require further research to examine these speculations.

 

So, consolidate motor memories with mindfulness.

 

“Meditation in sport is not only helpful for performance, but can also aid athletes who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses. The practice can help athletes through injury, as well as overcome challenges such as the transition back into sport or out of sport (e.g., retirement).” – Kristin Keim

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Immink MA (2016) Post-training Meditation Promotes Motor Memory Consolidation. Front. Psychol. 7:1698. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698

 

Following training, motor memory consolidation is thought to involve either memory stabilization or off-line learning processes. The extent to which memory stabilization or off-line learning relies on post-training wakeful periods or sleep is not clear and thus, novel research approaches are needed to further explore the conditions that promote motor memory consolidation. The present experiment represents the first empirical test of meditation as potential facilitator of motor memory consolidation. Twelve adult residents of a yoga center with a mean of 9 years meditation experience were trained on a sequence key pressing task. Three hours after training, the meditation group completed a 30 min session of yoga nidra meditation while a control group completed 30 min of light work duties. A wakeful period of 4.5 h followed meditation after which participants completed a test involving both trained and untrained sequences. Training performance did not significantly differ between groups. Comparison of group performance at test, revealed a performance benefit of post-training meditation but this was limited to trained sequences only. That the post-training meditation performance benefit was specific to trained sequences is consistent with the notion of meditation promoting motor memory consolidation as opposed to general motor task performance benefits from meditation. Further, post-training meditation appears to have promoted motor memory stabilization as opposed to off-line learning. These findings represent the first demonstration of meditation related motor memory consolidation and are consistent with a growing body of literature demonstrating the benefits of meditation for cognitive function, including memory.

http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01698/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w45-2016

 

Yoga Helps the Blind Maintain Balance

“One of the many misconceptions about the blind is that they have greater hearing, sense of smell and sense of touch than sighted people. This is not strictly true. Their blindness simply forces them to recognize gifts they always had but had heretofore largely ignored. – Rosemary Mahoney
Falls are a standard of slapstick comedy and Americas Funniest Home Videos. But, falls are far from funny. They can cause serious injury and even death. “One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. Each year, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,6 usually by falling sideways. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually.” (Centers for Disease Control). Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year, making falls the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.

 

Physical and sensory fitness and balance are important for the prevention of falls. The visual system is particularly important for maintaining balance and avoiding obstacles. Hence, it is not surprising that the visually impaired are 1.7 times more likely to have a fall and 1.9 times more likely to have multiple falls compared with fully sighted populations. The odds of a hip fracture are between 1.3 and 1.9 times greater for those with reduced visual acuity. So, finding methods to improve balance in the visually impaired may greatly reduce falls and subsequent injury.

 

Yoga has been shown to improve muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/11/improve-physical-health-with-yoga/) and to improve balance (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/12/26/improve-physical-well-being-with-bikram-yoga/). So, it would seem reasonable to predict that yoga training may improve coordination, flexibility, and balance in the visually impaired and as a result reduce injuries.

 

In today’s Research News article “Ashtanga-Based Yoga Therapy Increases the Sensory Contribution to Postural Stability in Visually-Impaired Persons at Risk for Falls as Measured by the Wii Balance Board: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1159236467433611/?type=3&theater

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129646

Jeter and colleagues developed and pilot tested a yoga program for the legally blind and compared the results to those obtained from a wait-list control group. The participants practiced yoga once a week with an instructor and twice a week at home for eight weeks. As expected yoga produced an increase in lower body strength and flexibility. Using a balance on an unstable platform test they found that after yoga training the blind participants were better able to use somatosensory and vestibular information to maintain balance.

 

These findings suggest that yoga improves blind individuals physically and increases their balance by making them more sensitive to the information provided by touch and by the balance (vestibular) system. There was no direct test of propensity to fall, but the results suggest that the yoga training would improve balance and thereby lower the likelihood of a fall. It will take further research to directly test this conclusion.

 

It is clear, however, that yoga can improve sensitivity of the tactile and vestibular stimuli that are important for balance. So, practice yoga to improve balance in the blind.
“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.”

John Milton
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies