Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness with Tai Chi

Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness with Tai Chi

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“practicing Tai Chi Chuan regularly may delay the decline of cardiorespiratory function in older individuals. In addition, TCC may be prescribed as a suitable aerobic exercise for older adults.” – J.S. Lai

 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.” (Centers for Disease Control). A myriad of treatments has been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. In addition, lifestyle changes have proved to be effective including quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients recovering from a heart attack, emphasize these lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, 60% of cardiac patients decline participation, making these patients at high risk for another attack.

 

Contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. In addition, mindfulness practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of other lifestyle changes needed such as smoking cessationweight reduction and stress reduction.  Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient mindfulness practices involving slow prescribed movements. They are gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, they can also be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. Since Tai Chi is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise, it may be an acceptable and effective treatment for cardiac patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effect of Tai Chi on Cardiorespiratory Fitness for Coronary Disease Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758591/ ), Yang and colleagues review, summarize and perform a meta-analysis of 5 published studies involving the application of Tai Chi practice for cardiac patients. Two studies were randomized controlled trials while 2 did not have a comparison (control) condition.

 

They report that the published studies found that Tai Chi practice produced significant improvement in the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood (VO2max) and was superior to light or moderate exercise but not different from intense exercise. Tai Chi practice also produced a significant improvement in peak heart rate in comparison to baseline and no exercise, but was inferior to intense exercise in this regard. Hence, there is evidence that Tai Chi practice can be of benefit to cardiac patients improving cardiorespiratory function.

 

The studies reviewed tended to have small samples or had week or nonexistent control conditions. So, conclusions must be tempered. The present summary, however, suggest that larger randomized controlled trials are justified. Tai Chi was not found to be as beneficial as intense exercise. But, intense exercise may be dangerous for cardiac patients. The attractiveness of the low intensity, low cost, convenient, and socially fun nature of Tai Chi practice makes it a good choice for cardiac patients.

 

So, improve cardiorespiratory fitness with Tai Chi.

 

“The slow and gentle movements of Tai Chi hold promise as an alternative exercise option for patients who decline traditional cardiac rehabilitation.” – Science Daily

 

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

 

Yang YL, Wang YH, Wang SR, Shi PS, Wang C. The Effect of Tai Chi on Cardiorespiratory Fitness for Coronary Disease Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol. 2018 Jan 4;8:1091. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.01091. eCollection 2017.

 

Abstract

Background: Tai Chi that originated in China as a martial art is an aerobic exercise with low-to-moderate intensity and may play a role in cardiac rehabilitation. Aim: To systematically review the effect of Tai Chi on cardiorespiratory fitness for coronary disease rehabilitation. Methods: We performed a search for Chinese and English studies in the following databases: PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Chinese Biomedical Literature Database, China Knowledge Resource Integrated Database, Wanfang Data, and China Science and Technology Journal Database. The search strategy included terms relating to or describing Tai Chi and coronary disease, and there were no exclusion criteria for other types of diseases or disorders. Further, bibliographies of the related published systematic reviews were also reviewed. The searches, data extraction, and risk of bias (ROB) assessments were conducted by two independent investigators. Differences were resolved by consensus. RevMan 5.3.0 was used to analyze the study results. We used quantitative synthesis if the included studies were sufficiently homogeneous and performed subgroup analyses for studies with different control groups. To minimize bias in our findings, we used GRADEpro to grade the available evidence. Results: Five studies were enrolled-two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and three nonrandomized controlled trials (N-RCTs)-that included 291 patients. All patients had coronary disease. ROB assessments showed a relatively high selection and detection bias. Meta-analyses showed that compared to other types of low- or moderate-intensity exercise, Tai Chi could significantly improve VO2max [MD = 4.71, 95% CI (3.58, 5.84), P < 0.00001], but it seemed less effective at improving VO2max as compared to high-intensity exercise. This difference, however, was not statistically significant [MD = -1.10, 95% CI (-2.46, 0.26), P = 0.11]. The GRADEpro showed a low level of the available evidence. Conclusion: Compared to no exercise or other types of exercise with low-to-moderate intensity, Tai Chi seems a good choice for coronary disease rehabilitation in improving cardiorespiratory fitness. However, owing to the poor methodology quality, more clinical trials with large sample size, strict randomization, and clear description about detection and reporting processes are needed to further verify the evidence.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5758591/

Improve Asthma in Children with Tai Chi

Improve Asthma in Children with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Tai Chi/Qigong is eminently suitable and beneficial for asthma sufferers. As well as being non-exertive their practice teaches correct breathing and posture, which can help eliminate or decrease the severity of attacks. Benefits of Tai Chi for Asthmatics” – Living Chi

 

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that involves a persistent inflammation of the airways. When the inflammation worsens, it makes it more difficult for air to move in and out of the lungs provoking coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It is estimated that 300 million people worldwide and 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma and the incidence appears to be growing. In the U.S.it is estimated to cost $60 billion per year in healthcare costs and lost productivity. Asthma is the most common chronic disease in the world among children with about 10% of children suffering from asthma.

 

Asthma is not fatal and those with moderate asthma have an equivalent life expectancy to those that don’t. There is no cure for asthma. So, it is a chronic disease that must be coped with throughout the lifetime. Treatments are aimed at symptomatic relief. Most frequently drugs, anti-inflammatory hormones, and inhalers are used to help control the inflammation. Exercise can be difficult with asthma and may actually precipitate an attack. This can be a problem as maintaining fitness with asthma can be difficult. A gentle form of exercise, Tai Chi, does not require heavy breathing and thus does not provoke asthma. In addition, breathing exercises like those incorporated into Tai Chi practice are known to help control asthma. This suggests that Tai Chi may be a helpful exercise for people with asthma.

 

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/PMC5406730/, Lin and colleagues recruited children with and without a diagnosis of mild, intermittent asthma (average age of 10.5). The children were instructed in Tai Chi for 60 minutes, once a week, for 12 weeks and were requested to practice every day at home assisted by supplied videos. They were measured before and after training for lung function, fractional exhaled nitric oxide (an indicator of airway inflammation), and asthma quality of life. They were compared to a group of similar children who did not practice Tai Chi.

 

They found that the groups that performed Tai Chi showed significant improvements in lung function and decreases in lung inflammation. In addition, the children with asthma showed significant improvements in asthma quality of life, including asthma symptoms, limitations on activity, and emotional function. It should be mentioned that the control children did not engage in any form of exercise, so, it is not clear that Tai Chi has any greater benefits than other exercises. It remains for future research to clarify this issue.

 

It is clear, however, that the gentle exercise of Tai Chi combined with its breathing exercises is of great benefit to children with asthma, improving breathing and their quality of life. The study only investigated children with mild and intermittent asthma. So, it remains for future research to demonstrate if Tai Chi practice is similarly beneficial for more severe cases of asthma. But these results are very encouraging as Tai Chi is gentle, safe, does not provoke asthmatic attacks, is inexpensive to teach, practice can be conveniently maintained at home, and it includes beneficial breathing exercises.

 

So, improve asthma in children with Tai Chi.

 

“Breathing, relaxation and exercise programs, have for many years, been a useful tool in asthma management. The problem is that breathing; relaxation and exercise are often practiced separately, making them a relatively disjointed and limited part of asthma management.” – Living Chi

 

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, H.-C., Lin, H.-P., Yu, H.-H., Wang, L.-C., Lee, J.-H., Lin, Y.-T., … Chiang, B.-L. (2017). Tai-Chi-Chuan Exercise Improves Pulmonary Function and Decreases Exhaled Nitric Oxide Level in Both Asthmatic and Nonasthmatic Children and Improves Quality of Life in Children with Asthma. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 6287642. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/6287642

 

Abstract

Tai-Chi-Chuan (TCC) is an exercise of low-to-moderate intensity which is suitable for asthmatic patients. The aim of our study is to investigate improvements of the lung function, airway inflammation, and quality of life of asthmatic children after TCC. Participants included sixty-one elementary school students and they were divided into asthmatic (n = 29) and nonasthmatic (n = 32) groups by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) questionnaire. Among them, 20 asthmatic and 18 nonasthmatic children volunteered to participate in a 60-minute TCC exercise weekly for 12 weeks. Baseline and postintervention assessments included forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO) level, and Standardised Pediatric Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (PAQLQ(S)). After intervention, the level of FeNO decreased significantly; PEFR and the FEV1/FVC also improved significantly in both asthmatic group and nonasthmatic group after TCC. The asthmatic children also had improved quality of life after TCC. The results indicated that TCC could improve the pulmonary function and decrease airway inflammation in both children with mild asthma and those without asthma. It also improves quality of life in mild asthmatic children. Nevertheless, further studies are required to determine the effect of TCC on children with moderate-to-severe asthma.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406730/

Improve Health with Qigong

Improve Health with Qigong

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of exercise and meditation that makes the mind and spirit tranquil, improves performance in sports, and cultivates health, well-being, and long life.” – Annie Bond

 

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 controlled 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.

 

In today’s Research News article “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Baduanjin Qigong for Health Benefits: Randomized Controlled Trials.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5359459/

Zou and colleagues review the published research literature on the effects of one particular Qigong practice, Baduanjin Qigong, on health.  Baduanjin Qigong involves only 8 simple movements and “is characterized by interplay between symmetrical physical postures and movements, mind, and breathing exercise in a harmonious manner.” They discovered 19 published randomized controlled trials employing adults. About 1/3 of the participants were healthy and 2/3 were ill with a variety of diseases including “type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension, knee osteoarthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome-like illness.”

 

The published research revealed that Baduanjin Qigong produced significant improvements in quality of life (6 studies), sleep quality (6 studies), balance (6 studies), handgrip strength (5 studies), trunk and hip flexibility (4 studies), leg power (2 studies), walking performance (2 studies), systolic and diastolic blood pressures (9 studies), respiratory efficiency (6 studies), and cardiorespiratory endurance (4 studies). The small number of studies (2) that measured leg power and walking performance makes conclusions about these improvements tentative. But, the rest of the improvements would appear to be solid findings of a magnitude to be considered of clinical significance.

 

These are exciting results. The range of different areas of physical improvement produced by Baduanjin Qigong and the range of illnesses improved are impressive. Since, this ancient gentle practice is completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned as only 8 movements are involved, it would appear to be an excellent treatment for sickly individuals, especially the elderly. It remains to be seen how effective Baduanjin Qigong might be for mental and emotional problems.

 

So, improve health with qigong.

 

“Sometimes Qigong and Tai Chi are called a moving meditation in which the mind and body are led to a state of balance and equilibrium also known as homeostasis. A Harvard medical publication said it should also be called “moving medication.” The advantages of improving strength, flexibility and balance are pretty obvious but the advantages of peace that comes from the moving flowing meditative aspect of Qigong and Tai Chi are equally important.” – Denise Nagel

 

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

Zou, L., SasaKi, J. E., Wang, H., Xiao, Z., Fang, Q., & Zhang, M. (2017). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Baduanjin Qigong for Health Benefits: Randomized Controlled Trials. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4548706. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4548706

 

Abstract

Objective. To investigate the effects of practicing Baduanjin Qigong on different health outcomes. Methods. Six electronic databases were used for literature search through entering the following key words: Baduanjin Qigong, quality of life, sleep quality, and health-related outcomes. Results. Nineteen randomized controlled trials were used for meta-analysis. The aggregated results from this systematic review have shown significant benefits in favour of Baduanjin Qigong on quality of life (SMD, −0.75; 95% CI −1.26 to −0.24; P = 0.004), sleep quality (SMD, −0.55; 95% CI −0.97 to −0.12; P = 0.01), balance (SMD, −0.94; 95% CI −1.59 to 0.30; P = 0.004), handgrip strength (SMD, −0.69; 95% CI −1.2 to −0.19; P = 0.007), trunk flexibility (SMD, −0.66; 95% CI −1.13 to −0.19; P = 0.006), systolic (SMD, −0.60; 95% CI −0.94 to −0.27; P = 0.0004) and diastolic blood pressure (SMD, −0.46; 95% CI −0.73 to −0.20; P = 0.0005), and resting heart rate (SMD, −0.87; 95% CI −1.47 to −0.27; P = 0.005). The aggregated results of meta-analyses examining the effect of Baduanjin Qigong on leg power, cardiopulmonary endurance, and pulmonary function remain unclear because of a small number of studies. Conclusions. The aggregated results from this systematic review show that Baduanjin Qigong practice is beneficial for quality of life, sleep quality, balance, handgrip strength, trunk flexibility, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and resting heart rate. Further studies are necessary to confirm the effects of Baduanjin Qigong on leg power, cardiopulmonary endurance, and pulmonary function (e.g., vital capacity), while considering a long-term follow-up.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5359459/

Improve Balance in the Elderly by Uncoupling Posture and Respiration with Tai Chi

Improve Balance in the Elderly by Uncoupling Posture and Respiration with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

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

 

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 fall in the elderly.

 

An interesting contributor to imbalance is the synchronization of respiration with postural sway. When a person stands erect, with eyes closed, there is a normal sway in the posture. When respiration occurs the expansion of the abdomen and chest produces a slight shift in the center of gravity and the body sways to compensate. When the normal sway becomes synchronized with the sway produced by respiration, it results in an exaggeration of the sway. This produces a greater imbalance. This is usually minor and of very little consequence. But, in the elderly, with compromised balance and muscular control, the small extra imbalance may be a contributor to falls.

 

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 likelihood of falls in the elderly. One possible way that Tai Chi training may contribute to the decrease in falls is by decreasing posturo-respiratory synchronization. This interesting speculation has not been previously investigated.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi training reduced coupling between respiration and postural control.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695235/

Holmes and colleagues investigate the effect of Tai Chi training on posturo-respiratory synchronization. They recruited healthy males and females over 70 years of age and randomly assigned them to receive either Tai Chi training or education. Tai Chi training consisted of 12 weeks of instructor led group training for one hour, twice a week. The education condition involved health related lectures on the same schedule as the Tai Chi training. Before and after training the elderly were measured for postural sway, respiration and posturo-respiratory synchronization.

 

They found that after training neither group showed a change in postural sway or in respiration. Although the two groups did not differ in posturo-respiratory synchronization before training, after training the Tai Chi had significantly smaller posturo-respiratory synchronization than they did during baseline and in comparison to the education group. Hence, Tai Chi training reduced the contribution of posturo-respiratory synchronization to imbalance in the elderly. This may be one of the mechanisms by which Tai Chi training improves balance and reduces falls in the elderly.

 

Falls become more and more likely with age and the consequences of falls to the elderly can be devastating. So, a practice that can lower the risk of falls is important for the health and well-being of the elderly. Tai Chi is not strenuous, involves slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects. So, it is well suited as an exercise for an elderly population. In addition, once learned it can be practiced at home or in groups, making it a flexible very low cost solution. Hence, it appears that Tai Chi should be recommended to the elderly to improve balance and reduce falls and thereby improve the health and well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve balance in the elderly by uncoupling posture and respiration with tai chi.

 

“One of the greatest benefits of Tai Chi for the elderly is that even individuals who have physical limitations can practice this ancient healing art. Because it is comprised of a series of slow, relaxed movements, Tai chi is a non-strenuous activity that will not put added strain on weakened muscles. Tai Chi movements help encourage proper posture and rely on constant gentle movements that force the individual to concentrate and breathe deeply, two important techniques that are often overlooked in the elderly community.” – Delialah Falcon

 

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

Holmes, M. L., Manor, B., Hsieh, W., Hu, K., Lipsitz, L. A., & Li, L. (2016). Tai Chi training reduced coupling between respiration and postural control. Neuroscience Letters, 610, 60–65. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2015.10.053

 

 

  • Tai Chi training did not affect average sway speed& magnitude or respiratory rate
  • Yet tai Chi training reduced the impact of respiration on postural sway
  • The effects of Tai Chi on postural control could be optimized system interaction

Abstract

In order to maintain stable upright stance, the postural control system must account for the continuous perturbations to the body’s center-of-mass including those caused by spontaneous respiration. Both aging and disease increase “posturo-respiratory synchronization;” which reflects the degree to which respiration affects postural sway fluctuations over time. Tai Chi training emphasizes the coordination of respiration and bodily movements and may therefore optimize the functional interaction between these two systems. The purpose of the project was to examine the effect of Tai Chi training on the interaction between respiration and postural control in older adults. We hypothesized that Tai Chi training would improve the ability of the postural control system to compensate for respiratory perturbations and thus, reduce posturo-respiratory synchronization. Participants were recruited from supportive housing facilities and randomized to a 12-week Tai Chi intervention (n=28; 86±5yrs) or educational-control program (n=34, 85±6yrs). Standing postural sway and respiration were simultaneously recorded with a force plate and respiratory belt under eyes-open and eyes-closed conditions. Posturo-respiratory synchronization was determined by quantifying the variation of the phase relationship between the dominant oscillatory mode of respiration and corresponding oscillations within postural sway. Groups were similar in age, gender distribution, height, body mass, and intervention compliance. Neither intervention altered average sway speed, sway magnitude or respiratory rate. As compared to the education-control group, however, Tai Chi training reduced posturo-respiratory synchronization when standing with eyes open or closed (p<0.001). Tai Chi training did not affect traditional parameters of standing postural control or respiration, yet reduced the coupling between respiration and postural control. The beneficial effects of Tai Chi training may therefore stem in part from optimization of this multi-system interaction.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695235/

 

Change the Brain to Deal with Uncomfortable Sensations with Mindfulness

Change the Brain to Deal with Uncomfortable Sensations with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Now, as the popularity of mindfulness grows, brain imaging techniques are revealing that this ancient practice can profoundly change the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other – and therefore how we think – permanently.” – Tom Ireland

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. For example, the brain area that controls the right index finger has been found to be larger in blind subjects who use braille than in sighted individuals.  Similarly, cab drivers in London who navigate the twisting streets of the city, have a larger hippocampus, which is involved in spatial navigation, than predefined route bus drivers. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity. Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread areas. In other words, mindfulness practice appears to produce relatively permanent changes in the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

Dealing with aversive or painful stimuli can be stressful and difficult. There are, however, methods that can improve the individual’s ability to effectively cope with them. Indeed, mindfulness training has been shown to reduce the experience of and response to aversive stimuli and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. There are indications that mindfulness training may do so by altering the nervous system. The brain regions of the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex have been shown to be involved in interoceptive awareness, that is the conscious appreciation of the internal state of the body. Hence, these structures would be involved in the processing of aversive and painful stimuli. It would seem reasonable, then, to theorize that mindfulness training improves coping with the pain and stress produced by aversive stimuli by changing the activation of the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-based training attenuates insula response to an aversive interoceptive challenge.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4692309/

Haase and colleagues recruited U.S. Marines who were undergoing pre-deployment training. They were randomly assigned to receive either the usual training or the training plus 8 weeks of mindfulness training occurring in weekly 2-hour sessions. They were also encouraged to practice 30 minutes per day by themselves. Before and after training they were measured for mindfulness, response to stressful experiences, and sleep quality. In addition, both before and after training the Marines completed a vigilance task while their brains underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scans). While they were undergoing scanning, periodically they had their breathing restricted by increasing the load on the lungs to inhale for a number of 1-minute periods. This produced oxygen restriction that was aversive and stressful. The participants rated how aversive the breathing restriction was.

 

They found that the breathing restriction was indeed aversive for both groups and there was no effect of mindfulness training on the aversiveness of the restriction. The mindfulness trained Marines, however, had significantly reduced neural responses from the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex after mindfulness training, while the control group did not. Hence, although mindfulness training did not change the perceived aversiveness of the breathing restriction, it did reduce the response of the brain areas responsible for interoceptive awareness.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness training produced neuroplastic changes in the nervous system, altering the brain areas that are responsible for reacting and consciously appreciating aversive conditions.  It has been previously demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces the experience of, and response to aversive stimuli and stress. Hence, the present findings suggest that neuroplastic alterations to the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex produced by mindfulness training may underlie the improved ability to cope with aversive stimuli.

 

So, change the brain to deal with uncomfortable sensations with mindfulness.

 

“Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.” – Christina Congleton

 

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

Haase, L., Thom, N. J., Shukla, A., Davenport, P. W., Simmons, A. N., Stanley, E. A., … Johnson, D. C. (2016). Mindfulness-based training attenuates insula response to an aversive interoceptive challenge. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(1), 182–190. http://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu042

 

Abstract

Neuroimaging studies of mindfulness training (MT) modulate anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insula among other brain regions, which are important for attentional control, emotional regulation and interoception. Inspiratory breathing load (IBL) is an experimental approach to examine how an individual responds to an aversive stimulus. Military personnel are at increased risk for cognitive, emotional and physiological compromise as a consequence of prolonged exposure to stressful environments and, therefore, may benefit from MT. This study investigated whether MT modulates neural processing of interoceptive distress in infantry marines scheduled to undergo pre-deployment training and deployment to Afghanistan. Marines were divided into two groups: individuals who received training as usual (control) and individuals who received an additional 20-h mindfulness-based mind fitness training (MMFT). All subjects completed an IBL task during functional magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and post-MMFT training. Marines who underwent MMFT relative to controls demonstrated a significant attenuation of right anterior insula and ACC during the experience of loaded breathing. These results support the hypothesis that MT changes brain activation such that individuals process more effectively an aversive interoceptive stimulus. Thus, MT may serve as a training technique to modulate the brain’s response to negative interoceptive stimuli, which may help to improve resilience.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4692309/

Improve Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

 “practicing yoga is one of the best things you can do for the health of your lungs. Yoga will strengthen the muscles of your chest, increase your lung capacity and boost oxygen intake.” – Tania Tarafdar

 

Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is very serious being the third leading cause of death in the United States, over 140,000 deaths per year and the number of people dying from COPD is growing. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death. Symptoms develop slowly. Over time, COPD can interfere with the performance of routine tasks and is thus a major cause of disability in the United States. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. But, COPD also occurs with miners and is called black lung disease. COPD is not contagious. Most of the time, treatment can ease symptoms and slow progression.

 

There is no cure for COPD. COPD treatments include lifestyle changes, medicine, bronchodilators, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery. They all attempt to relieve symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, improve exercise tolerance, prevent and treat complications, and improve overall health. Yoga practice would seem to be a useful lifestyle change that could improve COPD symptoms as it has been shown to improve exercise tolerance and overall health and includes breathing exercises. Indeed, it has been shown that yoga practice improves the mental and physical health of patients with COPD.

 

In today’s Research News article “Yoga-based pulmonary rehabilitation for the management of dyspnea in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized controlled trial.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1413254018698520/?type=3&theater

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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052394/

Ranjita and colleagues studied the effectiveness of yoga practice on Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) by recruiting non-smoking male coal miners with COPD and randomly assigned them to a treatment as usual group or a yoga practice group. Yoga was practiced in 90-minute session, 6 days per week for 12 weeks. Before and after training the participants were measured for exercise tolerance with a walking test, breathing difficulty, blood oxygen levels, pulse rate, and fatigue.

 

They found that the miners who participated in the yoga practice had a significant (24.4%) improvement in breathing, a 25.9% decrease in fatigue, a 19.9% increase in the walking test distance covered, a 1.3% increase in blood oxygen levels, and a 4.3% decrease in resting pulse rate. Hence, yoga practice significantly improved the miners’ lung function, energy level, and physical fitness.

 

These are excellent results and suggest that yoga practice may be a very useful additional treatment for Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). Previous research has shown that yoga practice improved overall health, depression, anxiety in COPD sufferers. Since, yoga practice is a gentle exercise that includes breathing exercises, it seems reasonable that it would have these beneficial effects for COPD sufferers. It would be useful if future research compared yoga practice to other forms of exercise as treatments for COPD. The yoga practice used in this study was exceptionally intensive. Many patients would not be willing to engage in such an intense practice. Future research should also look at whether less intensive yoga practice might be beneficial.

 

So, improve chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) with yoga.

 

“A comprehensive yoga program can have a salutary effect on general health and respiratory health and thereby help increase a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living. COPD is known to increase the level of stress, emotional vulnerability, inactivity and muscle wasting. Yoga techniques are particularly suited for promoting relaxation, psycho-emotional stability and exercise tolerance.” – Vijai Sharma

 

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

Ranjita, R., Hankey, A., Nagendra, H. R., & Mohanty, S. (2016). Yoga-based pulmonary rehabilitation for the management of dyspnea in coal miners with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 7(3), 158–166. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaim.2015.12.001

 

Abstract

Background: Coal mine dust exposure causes chronic airflow limitation in coal miners resulting in dyspnea, fatigue, and eventually chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Yoga can alleviate dyspnea in COPD by improving ventilatory mechanics, reducing central neural drive, and partially restoring neuromechanical coupling of the respiratory system.

Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of Integrated Approach of Yoga Therapy (IAYT) in the management of dyspnea and fatigue in coal miners with COPD.

Materials and methods: Randomized, waitlist controlled, single-blind clinical trial. Eighty-one coal miners (36–60 years) with stable Stages II and III COPD were recruited. The yoga group received an IAYT module for COPD that included asanas, loosening exercises, breathing practices, pranayama, cyclic meditation, yogic counseling and lectures 90 min/day, 6 days/week for 12 weeks. Measurements of dyspnea and fatigue on the Borg scale, exercise capacity by the 6 min walk test, peripheral capillary oxygen saturation (SpO2%), and pulse rate (PR) using pulse oximetry were made before and after the intervention.

Results: Statistically significant within group reductions in dyspnea (P < 0.001), fatigue (P < 0.001) scores, PR (P < 0.001), and significant improvements in SpO2% (P < 0.001) and 6 min walk distance (P < 0.001) were observed in the yoga group; all except the last were significant compared to controls (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Findings indicate that IAYT benefits coal miners with COPD, reducing dyspnea; fatigue and PR, and improving functional performance and peripheral capillary SpO2%. Yoga can now be included as an adjunct to conventional therapy for pulmonary rehabilitation programs for COPD patients.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5052394/

 

Relax with Slower Breathing with Meditation

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We often assume breathing is just a natural skill; everyone knows how to inhale and exhale. But breathing is a miracle. Being aware of our breath not only helps us manage the difficulties in everyday life, it also helps develop our wisdom and compassion. We can sit and breathe, but it is just as important to practice mindful breathing while we are moving. Life is a path, but life is not about getting to a certain place.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Breathing is essential for life and generally occurs automatically. It’s easy to take for granted as it’s been there our entire lives. Nevertheless, we become more aware of it when it varies with circumstances, such as when we exercise and also in emotional states, especially fear and anxiety. But we rarely notice it during everyday ongoing life. Yet, its characteristics are associated with our state of well-being. Slow deep breathing is characteristic of a healthy relaxed state.

 

Meditators have been trained to pay attention to and even focus on breathing. Meditation produces a relaxed state and during meditation, respiration slows and deepens. Meditation also, promotes health and well-being. All this would predict that meditation practice would result in slower deeper breathing in the individual even when they are not meditating. In today’s Research News article “Long-term mindfulness training is associated with reliable differences in resting respiration rate.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1272710419419548/?type=3&theater

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

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895172/

Wielgosz and colleagues examine this question. They compared the resting respiration rates of long-term meditators to a matched group of non-meditators and found that the meditators had significantly lower respiration rates (11%) than the controls. They further explored the lower respiration rates in meditators and found that it was significantly related to the total number of hours that these practitioners had spent on meditation retreats and not to the hours spent in daily practice.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that long-term meditation practice that includes meditation retreats is associated with lower respiration rates. These lower rates, in turn, suggest that there was an improvement in the overall well-being of the practitioners. Meditation retreats allow for extended periods of calm and quiet that are unavailable during everyday life with all its demands and stressors. It is possible that these extended periods are necessary to have an overall sustained reduction in respiration rates and the suggested improvement in overall well-being. This clearly suggests that including retreats in a meditation practice is very important.

 

It needs to be kept in mind that causation cannot be determined in this study. It is possible that people who engage in long-term meditation and attend meditation retreats are characteristically calmer people who had lower respiration rates even before initiating meditation practice. It will require a study where baselines are established before a meditation practice is commenced and then randomly assigning volunteers to either meditation practice with or without retreats or to a no-meditation condition.

 

Regardless, relax with slower breathing with meditation.

 

“Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.” – Plum Village

 

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

Wielgosz, J., Schuyler, B. S., Lutz, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2016). Long-term mindfulness training is associated with reliable differences in resting respiration rate. Scientific Reports, 6, 27533. http://doi.org/10.1038/srep27533

 

Abstract

Respiration rate is known to correlate with aspects of psychological well-being, and attention to respiration is a central component of mindfulness meditation training. Both traditional contemplative systems and recent empirical evidence support an association between formal mindfulness practice and decreased respiration rate. However, the question of whether long-term mindfulness training is associated with stable, generalized changes in respiration has yet to be directly investigated. We analyzed respiration patterns across multiple time points, separated by two months or more, in a group of long-term mindfulness meditation practitioners (LTMs, n = 31) and a matched group of non-meditators (Controls, n = 38). On average, LTMs showed slower baseline respiration rate (RR) than Controls. Among LTMs, greater practice experience was associated with slower RR, independently of age and gender. Furthermore, this association was specific to intensive retreat practice, and was not seen for routine daily practice. Full days of meditation practice did not produce detectable changes in baseline RR, suggesting distal rather than immediate effects. All effects were independent of physiological characteristics including height, weight, body-mass index and waist-hip ratio. We discuss implications for continued study of the long-term effects of mindfulness training on health and well-being.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4895172/