Forest Walking and Forest Qigong Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly

Forest Walking and Forest Qigong Improve Cognitive Function in the Elderly

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“forest bathing has received increasing attention due to its health-promoting effects, including enhancing immune functions and decreasing blood pressure in hypertension patients, as well as stress relief effects.” – Genxiang Mao,

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and improve mood. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if mindfulness training occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly improve the effectiveness of mindfulness practice. In fact, being in nature has been shown to improve psychological health.

 

Qigong has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Qigong training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Qigong  practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Qigong has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the ability of Qigong training particularly when practiced in nature to improve well-being in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Psycho-Electrophysiological Benefits of Forest Therapies Focused on Qigong and Walking with Elderly Individuals.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999348/ ) Yi and colleagues recruited healthy elderly (65 years of age and older) participants and assigned them to one of 3 conditions; no-treatment control, forest walking, or forest Qigong. The forest programs were 2 hours per session twice per week for 6 weeks and included warm-up exercises, stretching, physio-cognitive play, and cool-down along with 50 minutes of either forest walking, or forest Qigong. They were measured before and after training for cognitive impairment, depression, and quality of life. They also had the electroencephalogram (EEG) and electrocardiogram (EKG) recorded. Bioimpedance was used to determine body composition and nutritional metabolism.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control condition, the forest qigong group had a significant decrease in depression while the forest walking group had a significant decrease in cognitive impairment and increase in quality of life. In the EEG, the forest walking group had significant increases in Alpha and Beta rhythm power and a significant decrease in low frequency heart rate variability after training while the control and forest qigong groups did not. In addition, the forest qigong group had a significant increase in the upper body bioimpedance phase angle while the forest walking group had a significant increase in the lower body bioimpedance phase angle.

 

Bioimpedance phase angle is an indicator of the metabolic nutrition of the muscles. So, the practice of qigong in the forest appears to increase the metabolic nutritional status of the upper body while walking in the forest appears to increase the metabolic nutritional status of the lower body. This is not surprising as qigong involves frequent arm movements while walking involves more leg movements. Low frequency heart rate variability is an indicator of sympathetic nervous system activity and its decrease in the forest walking group suggests that walking in the forest is physiologically relaxing, reducing activating sympathetic activity. Finally, EEG power is indicative of brain information processing and its increase with forest walking is indicative of an increase in information (cognitive) processing.

 

These findings are interesting and suggest that walking in the forest and qigong in the forest have different effects on elderly individuals. Where forest qigong appears to be superior for decreasing depression and upper body metabolism, forest walking appears to improve cognitive ability, lower body metabolism, and physiological relaxation. Hence qigong in the forest is superior for emotional health while walking in the forest is superior for cognitive health. This suggests that the combination of qigong and walking in the forest may produce better well-being for elderly individual.

 

So, forest walking and forest qigong improve cognitive function in the elderly.

 

Forest bathing, also known as forest therapy or shinrin-yoku in Japanese, is an evidence-based practice of connecting to nature as a way to heal.” – Credible Mind

 

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

 

Yi, J., Kim, S. G., Khil, T., Shin, M., You, J. H., Jeon, S., Park, G. H., Jeong, A. Y., Lim, Y., Kim, K., Kim, J., Kang, B., Lee, J., Park, J. H., Ku, B., Choi, J., Cha, W., Lee, H. J., Shin, C., Shin, W., … Kim, J. U. (2021). Psycho-Electrophysiological Benefits of Forest Therapies Focused on Qigong and Walking with Elderly Individuals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 3004. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063004

 

Abstract

We developed two distinct forest therapy programs (FTPs) and compared their effects on dementia prevention and related health problems for older adults. One was focused on Qigong practice in the forest (QP) and the other involved active walking in the forest (WP). Both FTPs consisted of twelve 2-h sessions over six weeks and were conducted in an urban forest. We obtained data from 25, 18, and 26 participants aged 65 years or above for the QP, WP, and control groups, respectively. Neuropsychological scores via cognition (MoCA), geriatric depression (GDS) and quality of life (EQ-5D), and electrophysiological variables (electroencephalography, bioimpedance, and heart rate variability) were measured. We analyzed the intervention effects with a generalized linear model. Compared to the control group, the WP group showed benefits in terms of neurocognition (increases in the MoCA score, and alpha and beta band power values in the electroencephalogram), sympathetic nervous activity, and bioimpedance in the lower body. On the other hand, the QP group showed alleviated depression and an increased bioimpedance phase angle in the upper body. In conclusion, both active walking and Qigong in the forest were shown to have distinctive neuropsychological and electrophysiological benefits, and both had beneficial effects in terms of preventing dementia and relieving related health problems for elderly individuals.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7999348/

 

Improve Balance and Exercise Capacity in Stroke Patients with Tai Chi

Improve Balance and Exercise Capacity in Stroke Patients with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“With a complete focus on slow, controlled, and repetitive movements, tai chi is effective in improving one’s balance through dynamic motion and coordination, which is crucial to prevent falls. What many people may not know is that stroke survivors endure seven times as many falls each year as healthy adults.” – Henry Hoffman

 

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke and it is the third leading cause of death, killing around 140,000 Americans each year. A stroke results from an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. This can result in the death of brain cells and depending on the extent of the damage produce profound loss of function. Even after recovery from stroke patients can experience residual symptoms. Problems with balance and falling are very common. About 30% of stroke survivors develop spasticity, where the muscles become stiff, tighten up, and resist stretching. Obviously, spasticity can interfere with regaining movement after stroke.

 

The ancient mindful movement technique Tai Chi and Qigong are very safe forms of gentle exercise that appears to be beneficial for stroke victims including improving balanceTai Chi involves both gentle exercise and mindfulness practice. Much has been learned. So, it makes sense to step back and summarize the research findings.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Influences of Tai Chi on Balance Function and Exercise Capacity among Stroke Patients: A Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7932789/ ) Zheng and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published randomized controlled trials of the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice for the rehabilitation of stroke survivors. They identified 19 published randomized controlled trials.

 

They found that Tai Chi practice produced a significant improvement in balance. Standing and walking ability, 6-minute walking distance, gravity center swing, and exercise ability. Hence, the published randomized controlled trials make a strong case that Tai Chi practice is a safe and effective non-drug treatment to improve the balance and motor ability of stroke patients. These improvements should reduce the incidence of dangerous falls and improve the overall health and quality of life of these patients.

 

Tai Chi practice is not strenuous, involves 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 such as stroke. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to help improve the balance and exercise capacity of stroke patients.

 

Tai Chi has an overall beneficial effect on activities of daily living, balance, limb motor function, and walking ability among stroke survivors. . . and may also improve sleep quality, mood, mental health, and other motor function.” – Diyang Lyu

 

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

 

Zheng, X., Wu, X., Liu, Z., Wang, J., Wang, K., Yin, J., & Wang, X. (2021). The Influences of Tai Chi on Balance Function and Exercise Capacity among Stroke Patients: A Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2021, 6636847. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6636847

 

Abstract

Objective

This study aims to explore the influences of Tai Chi on the balance function and exercise capacity among stroke patients.

Methods

Databases including PubMed, Embase, WOS (Web of Science), the Cochrane Library, CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure), Wanfang Data, VIP (VIP database), and CBM (China Biology Medicine disc) were retrieved to gather the figures of randomized controlled trials on the balance function and exercise capacity among stroke patients. Then relevant data were input and analyzed in Review Manager 5.3.

Results

Nineteen papers were included and analyzed in this study. According to the combined effect size, the balance function of stroke patients improved significantly: the Berg Balance Function Scale score [MD = 7.67, 95% CI (3.44, 11.90)]; standing and walking test scores [MD = 3.42, 95% CI (4.22, −2.63)]; gravity swing area [MD = 0.79, 95% CI (1.48, 0.10)]; and gravity swing speed [MD = −5.43, 95% CI (−7.79, 3.08)]. In addition, the exercise capacity improved significantly as well: the FMA (Fugl-Meyer Assessment Scale) scale score [MD = 4.15, 95% CI (1.68, 6.63)]. There are no significant influences or changes of other related results.

Conclusions

Stroke patients are able to improve their balance functions and exercise capacities prominently when they do Tai Chi exercise once or twice a week and ≥5 times/week and >30 ≤ 60 min/time.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7932789/

 

Self-centeredness Moderates the Effect of Mindfulness on Psychological Health

 

Improve Physical Function in Chronic Pain Patients with Mind-Body Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mind-body practices like tai chi, yoga, mindfulness and cognitive-behavioral therapy can all relieve lower back pain effectively.” – Wayne Jonas

 

We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully it’s mild and short lived. For a wide swath of humanity, however, pain is a constant in their lives. At least 100 million adult Americans have chronic pain conditions. The most common treatment for chronic pain is drugs. These include over-the-counter analgesics and opioids. But opioids are dangerous and highly addictive. Prescription opioid overdoses kill more than 14,000 people annually. So, there is a great need to find safe and effective ways to lower the psychological distress and improve the individual’s ability to cope with the pain.

 

There is an accumulating volume of research findings that demonstrate that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating painYoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of health benefits. These include relief of chronic painYoga practice has also been shown to be effective for the relief of chronic pain.  Other mind-body  practices such as Tai Chi  improves spinal health and reduces pain. Since mind body practices involve exercise, it would seem reasonable to look at the effectiveness of mind-body practices in improving physical function and relieving pain in chronic pain patients.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mind-Body Activity Program for Chronic Pain: Exploring Mechanisms of Improvement in Patient-Reported, Performance-Based and Ambulatory Physical Function.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872894/ )  Greenberg and colleagues recruited patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain and randomly assigned them to 10-week mind-body physical activity programs either with or without a Fitbit activity monitor. The programs consisted of 10 weekly 90-minute sessions teaching mindfulness, deep breathing, pain-specific cognitive behavioral skills, physical restoration skills, and education on the disability spiral. They were measured before and after training for physical function, disability, walking distance, and accelerometer-based steps, kinesiophobia (fear of movement due to pain), pain resilience, mindfulness, and pain catastrophizing.

 

Using multilevel linear modelling, they found that compared to baseline, after treatment, there were significant increases in walking distance, step count, pain resilience and mindfulness, and a significant decrease in kinesiophobia and disability. Mediation analysis revealed that the improvement in disability was due to increases in pain resilience and mindfulness and decreases in kinesiophobia. For the walk test, only decreases in kinesiophobia mediated the improvement.

 

It should be noted that there wasn’t a control condition as both groups received the mind-body physical activity program. So, it is possible that confounds such as placebo effects and time-based healing may be operative. So, conclusions must be reached with caution. That being said, the results suggest that mind-body physical activity program improves physical function in chronic pain patients. The improvements are associated with increases in mindfulness, and pain resilience and decreases in kinesiophobia. But these variables only appear to mediate the effects of the training with regard to disability.

 

Mindfulness has been well documented to improve the disability of chronic pain patients. It is not surprising that the ability to be resilient in the face of pain and the lowering the fear of moving with pain are also helpful. Chronic pain makes life miserable for the patients and the effectiveness of the mind-body physical activity program in improving physical ability is helpful to some extent in decreasing the disability resulting from the pain and reducing the patient’s suffering.

 

So, improve physical function in chronic pain patients with mind-body practice.

 

The mind, emotions and attention play an important role in the experience of pain. In patients with chronic pain, stress, fear and depression can amplify the perception of pain. Mind-body approaches act to change a person’s mental or emotional state or utilise physical movement to train attention or produce mental relaxation.” – Craig Hassed

 

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

 

Greenberg, J., Mace, R. A., Bannon, S. M., Kulich, R. J., & Vranceanu, A. M. (2021). Mind-Body Activity Program for Chronic Pain: Exploring Mechanisms of Improvement in Patient-Reported, Performance-Based and Ambulatory Physical Function. Journal of pain research, 14, 359–368. https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S298212

 

Abstract

Background

Improving physical function among patients with chronic pain is critical for reducing disability and healthcare costs. However, mechanisms underlying improvement in patient-reported, performance-based, and ambulatory physical function in chronic pain remain poorly understood.

Purpose

To explore psychosocial mediators of improvement in patient-reported, performance-based, and objective/accelerometer-measured physical function among participants in a mind-body activity program.

Methods

Individuals with chronic pain were randomized to one of two identical 10-week mind-body activity interventions aimed at improving physical function with (GetActive-Fitbit; N=41) or without (GetActive; N=41) a Fitbit device. They completed self-reported (WHODAS 2.0), performance-based (6-minute walk test), and objective (accelerometer-measured step-count) measures of physical function, as well as measures of kinesiophobia (Tampa Kinesiophobia Scale), mindfulness (CAMS-R), and pain resilience (Pain Resilience Scale) before and after the intervention. We conducted secondary data analyses to test mediation via mixed-effects modeline.

Results

Improvements in patient-reported physical function were fully and uniquely mediated by kinesiophobia (Completely Standardized Indirect Effect (CSIE)=.18; CI=0.08, 0.30; medium-large effect size), mindfulness (CSIE=−.14; CI=−25, −.05; medium effect size) and pain resilience (CSIE=−.07; CI=−.16, −.005; small-medium effect size). Improvements in performance-based physical function were mediated only by kinesiophobia (CSIE=−.11; CI=−23, −.008; medium effect size). No measures mediated improvements in objective (accelerometer measured) physical function.

Conclusion

Interventions aiming to improve patient-reported physical function in patients with chronic pain may benefit from skills that target kinesiophobia, mindfulness, and pain resilience, while those focused on improving performance-based physical function should target primarily kinesiophobia. More research is needed to understand mechanisms of improvement in objective, accelerometer-measured physical function.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872894/

 

Tai Chi Practice Changes the Brain Differently than Walking

Tai Chi Practice Changes the Brain Differently than Walking

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“tai chi appears to improve executive function—the ability to multitask, manage time, and make decisions—in people without any cognitive decline.” – Harvard Health

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly frequently have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation,  yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevityTai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the effects of Tai Chi training on the brains of older adults.

 

In today’s Research News article “Differential Effects of Tai Chi Chuan (Motor-Cognitive Training) and Walking on Brain Networks: A Resting-State fMRI Study in Chinese Women Aged 60.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151113/ ) Yue and colleagues recruited older women (over 60 years of age) who were long-term practitioners of Tai Chi or walking and scanned their brains with functional Magnetic Imaging (fMRI).

 

They examined 3 brain networks, the Default Mode Network, the Sensory Motor Network, and the Visual Network and found significant differences in the functional connectivity within these networks between the Tai Chi and walking groups. This suggests that the two exercises change the brains information processing in these women. They suggest that the brains of the older women went through neuroplastic changes as a result of their practices with different changes in different systems depending on the exercise.

 

There is evidence that physical fitness reduces the likelihood of dementia and Tai Chi practice has been shown to reduce the likelihood or severity of age-related cognitive decline. The observed changes, particularly in the Default Mode Network, which is known to be associated with memory and thinking, may underlie the effectiveness of these exercises in reducing the incidence of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. It remains for future research to determine which of the observed changes in the brains are responsible for retaining mental ability with aging.

 

Tai Chi practice is not strenuous, involves 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. It can also be practiced without professional supervision and in groups making it inexpensive to deliver and fun to engage in. This makes Tai Chi practice an excellent means to maintain fitness with aging and help maintain a fit mind and body.

 

So, Tai Chi practice changes the brain differently than walking.

 

Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi.” – ScienceDaily

 

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

 

Yue, C., Zhang, Y., Jian, M., Herold, F., Yu, Q., Mueller, P., Lin, J., Wang, G., Tao, Y., Zhang, Z., & Zou, L. (2020). Differential Effects of Tai Chi Chuan (Motor-Cognitive Training) and Walking on Brain Networks: A Resting-State fMRI Study in Chinese Women Aged 60. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 8(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare8010067

 

Abstract

Background: This cross-sectional study aimed to investigate whether a long-term engagement in different types of physical exercise may influence resting-state brain networks differentially. In particular, we studied if there were differences in resting-state functional connectivity measures when comparing older women who are long-term practitioners of tai chi chuan or walking. Method: We recruited 20 older women who regularly practiced tai chi chuan (TCC group), and 22 older women who walked regularly (walking group). Both the TCC group and the walking group underwent a resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) scan. The acquired rs-fMRI data of all participants were analyzed using independent component analysis. Age and years of education were added as co-variables. Results: There were significant differences in default network, sensory-motor network, and visual network of rs-fMRI between the TCC group and walking group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: The findings of the current study suggested that long-term practice of different types of physical exercises (TCC vs. walking) influenced brain functional networks and brain functional plasticity of elderly women differentially. Our findings encourage further research to investigate whether those differences in resting-state functional connectivity as a function of the type of physical exercise have implications for the prevention of neurological diseases.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151113/

 

Improve Physical Function and Postural Control Complexity in Older Adults with Peripheral Neuropathy with Tai Chi

Improve Physical Function and Postural Control Complexity in Older Adults with Peripheral Neuropathy with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“slow and fluid movements improve the body’s alignment, posture, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and stamina. Many of these benefits of Tai Chi are consistent with many other forms of low-impact exercise, with the added benefit of focus on improved posture, balance, and alignment.” – Robert Humphries

 

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.

 

Peripheral neuropathy can compound the effects of aging on motor ability. It involves damage to the peripheral nerves carrying information to the spinal cord and brain. This results in deficits in sensory information from the body and motor control. Peripheral neuropathy can impair muscle movement, prevent normal sensation in the arms and legs, and cause pain. In this way peripheral neuropathy may further impair older adults motor abilities and increase the likelihood of falls.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through posture, regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes posture and 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 improving postural control. This interesting speculation has not been previously investigated in older patients with peripheral neuropathy.

 

In today’s Research News article “Complexity-based measures inform Tai Chi’s impact on standing postural control in older adults with peripheral neuropathy.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3640896/), Manor and colleagues recruited older adults (average age 71 years) with peripheral neuropathy. They were provided 3 1-hour Tai Chi classes per week for 24 weeks. They were measured before and after training for foot sole sensation, leg strength, mobility, functional ability, and postural control, including measures of balance, speed, area under the curve, and complexity of postural control while standing.

 

They found that in comparison to baseline, after Tai Chi training there were significant improvements in foot sole sensation, leg strength, mobility, and physical function, including knee extension, walking, and speed. There was also a significant increase in postural control complexity. In addition, they found that the greater the increase in postural control complexity the greater the improvements in foot sole sensation, mobility, and functional ability.

 

This study did not have a control condition so conclusions must be tempered with the understanding that the results may have been due to time-based confounding variables. Nevertheless, the results suggest that Tai Chi practice improves the physical condition and abilities of older adults with peripheral neuropathy. Aging is associated with a loss of motoric complexity. The improvement in postural complexity observed in the present study may then represent the ability of Tai Chi practice to restore this complexity and thereby help the older adults’ physical abilities.

 

So, improve physical function and postural control complexity in older adults with peripheral neuropathy with Tai Chi.

 

We work to maintain great posture for a 60-120 minute class, reap the benefits, feel great, and then go home and try to emulate the posture in our natural environment.” – Scott

 

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

 

Manor, B., Lipsitz, L. A., Wayne, P. M., Peng, C. K., & Li, L. (2013). Complexity-based measures inform Tai Chi’s impact on standing postural control in older adults with peripheral neuropathy. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 87. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-13-87

 

Abstract

Background

Tai Chi training enhances physical function and may reduce falls in older adults with and without balance disorders, yet its effect on postural control as quantified by the magnitude or speed of center-of-pressure (COP) excursions beneath the feet is less clear. We hypothesized that COP metrics derived from complex systems theory may better capture the multi-component stimulus that Tai Chi has on the postural control system, as compared with traditional COP measures.

Methods

We performed a secondary analysis of a pilot, non-controlled intervention study that examined the effects of Tai Chi on standing COP dynamics, plantar sensation, and physical function in 25 older adults with peripheral neuropathy. Tai Chi training was based on the Yang style and consisted of three, one-hour group sessions per week for 24 weeks. Standing postural control was assessed with a force platform at baseline, 6, 12, 18, and 24 weeks. The degree of COP complexity, as defined by the presence of fluctuations existing over multiple timescales, was calculated using multiscale entropy analysis. Traditional measures of COP speed and area were also calculated. Foot sole sensation, six-minute walk (6MW) and timed up-and-go (TUG) were also measured at each assessment.

Results

Traditional measures of postural control did not change from baseline. The COP complexity index (mean±SD) increased from baseline (4.1±0.5) to week 6 (4.5±0.4), and from week 6 to week 24 (4.7±0.4) (p=0.02). Increases in COP complexity—from baseline to week 24—correlated with improvements in foot sole sensation (p=0.01), the 6MW (p=0.001) and TUG (p=0.01).

Conclusions

Subjects of the Tai Chi program exhibited increased complexity of standing COP dynamics. These increases were associated with improved plantar sensation and physical function. Although more research is needed, results of this non-controlled pilot study suggest that complexity-based COP measures may inform the study of complex mind-body interventions, like Tai Chi, on postural control in those with peripheral neuropathy or other age-related balance disorders.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3640896/

 

Improve Health and Cognitive Ability in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Health and Cognitive Ability in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Tai chi is a gentle exercise that helps seniors improve balance and prevent falls. Studies have found that tai chi also improves leg strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, immune system, sleep, happiness, sense of self-worth, and the ability to concentrate and multitask during cognitive tests.” – DailyCaring

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. This includes our mental abilities which decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem-solving ability, and in emotion regulation. 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

 

In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi on Markers of Atherosclerosis, Lower-limb Physical Function, and Cognitive Ability in Adults Aged Over 60: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6427726/), Zhou and colleagues recruited healthy elderly (aged 60-79 years) who were not practicing Tai Chi or other mindful movement practices and randomly assigned them to engage in one of three different Tai Chi practices for 12 weeks. The practices contained either 24, 42, or 56 different movements. They attended 3 times weekly Tai Chi classes. For the first 6 weeks the classes were 60 minutes while for the second 6 weeks the classes were 90 minutes. They were measured at baseline and at 6 and 12-weeks of practice for resting heart rate and as markers of atherosclerosis resting ankle brachial index and ankle pulse wave velocity. They were also measured for cognitive ability and movement tests of chair rise, walking, balance, and up-and-go test.

 

They found that for both males and females all three Tai Chi practices produced significant improvements in health-related outcomes at 6 and 12 weeks including improvements in walking, balance, up-and-go test, and ankle brachial index. Compared to the 24-movement practice, the 42- and 56-movement practices produced significantly better results for walking and balance and the resting ankle brachial index indicator of atherosclerosis. There were no adverse events recorded.

 

These results have to be interpreted with caution as there wasn’t a control condition such as a different exercise and there was no long-term follow-up. Nevertheless, the results suggest that Tai Chi practices is safe and effective treatment to produce significant improvements in the elderly’s movements, balance, and atherosclerosis. The 24-movement practice appears to be inferior to Tai Chi practices containing a greater number of distinct movements. Supporting these findings is the fact that these improvements including improved balance, movement, cardiovascular performance have also been documented in prior research.

 

Tai Chi practice is gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are 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. All of these characteristics make Tai Chi practice an excellent practice to improvement the health of the elderly.

 

So, improve health and cognitive ability in the elderly with Tai Chi

 

Practicing Tai Chi regularly is known to enhance health and fitness. It can also help seniors with a better sense of balance and strength.” – MedicalAlert

 

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

                 

Zhou, S., Zhang, Y., Kong, Z., Loprinzi, P. D., Hu, Y., Ye, J., … Zou, L. (2019). The Effects of Tai Chi on Markers of Atherosclerosis, Lower-limb Physical Function, and Cognitive Ability in Adults Aged Over 60: A Randomized Controlled Trial. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(5), 753. doi:10.3390/ijerph16050753

 

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Tai Chi (TC) on arterial stiffness, physical function of lower-limb, and cognitive ability in adults aged over 60. Methods: This study was a prospective and randomized 12-week intervention trial with three repeated measurements (baseline, 6, and 12 weeks). Sixty healthy adults who met the inclusion criteria were randomly allocated into three training conditions (TC-24, TC-42, and TC-56) matched by gender, with 20 participants (10 males, 10 females) in each of the three groups. We measured the following health outcomes, including markers of atherosclerosis, physical function (leg power, and static and dynamic balance) of lower-limb, and cognitive ability. Results: When all three TC groups (p < 0.05) have showed significant improvements on these outcomes but overall cognitive ability at 6 or 12 weeks training period, TC-56 appears to have superior effects on arterial stiffness and static/dynamic balance in the present study. Conclusions: Study results of the present study add to growing body of evidence regarding therapeutic TC for health promotion and disease prevention in aging population. Future studies should further determine whether TC-42 and TC-56 are beneficial for other non-Chinese populations, with rigorous research design and follow-up assessment.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6427726/

 

Improve Balance and Mobility and Prevent Falls in Parkinson’s Disease Patients with Tai Chi

Improve Balance and Mobility and Prevent Falls in Parkinson’s Disease Patients with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“There is still so much to learn from research about exactly how exercise improves the physical and mental well-being of people with living with Parkinson’s disease, as well as which combinations or activities yield the best outcomes, but there is no doubt whatsoever that exercise remains one of the best therapies for preserving and enhancing quality of life.” – Davis Phinney

 

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an incurable progressive degenerative disease of the central nervous system. The condition is caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. There are around seven million people worldwide and one million people in the U.S. living with PD and about 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year. PD is associated with aging as the vast majority of patients are diagnosed after age 50. In fact, it has been speculated that everyone would eventually develop PD if they lived long enough.

 

Its physical symptoms include resting tremor, slow movements, muscle rigidity, problems with posture and balance, loss of automatic movements, and slurring of speech. PD itself is not fatal but is often associated with related complications which can reduce life expectancy, such as falls, choking, and cardiovascular problems. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) also has psychological effects, especially cognitive decline, anxiety, and depression. All of these symptoms result in a marked reduction in the quality of life.

 

There are no cures for Parkinson’s Disease or even treatments to slow its progression. There are only treatments that can produce symptomatic relief. So, there is a need to discover new and different treatments. Mindfulness training has been found to improve the psychological symptoms and the quality of life with PD patients.  In addition, Tai Chi practice has been shown to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Hence, Tai Chi  may be an excellent treatment for the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Reducing Falls and Improving Balance Performance in Parkinson’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409066/), Liu and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice to improve balance and mobility and reduce falls in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients. They found and reviewed 5 published randomized controlled trials that compared Tai Chi practice to no intervention, stretching/resistance training, and walking control conditions.

 

They report that the trials found that in comparison to baseline and the control conditions Tai Chi  practice significantly improved balance and functional mobility in the Parkinson’s Disease patients and reduced the number who experienced a fall. This is important as the compromised motor ability of patients with Parkinson’s Disease makes them much more vulnerable to falls and the resultant compromised health. By improving balance and mobility in these patients Tai Chi practice produces enhanced health and well-being.

 

The results of the published research strongly suggests that Tai Chi  practice should be routinely prescribed for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Tai Chi is a gentle and safe mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an excellent gentle practice to improve the well-being of patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

 

So, improve balance and mobility and prevent falls in Parkinson’s Disease patients with Tai Chi.

 

Daily Tai Chi practice is extremely helpful to those with chronic ailments and illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, respiratory problems and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few,” – Mwezo

 

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

 

Liu, H. H., Yeh, N. C., Wu, Y. F., Yang, Y. R., Wang, R. Y., & Cheng, F. Y. (2019). Effects of Tai Chi Exercise on Reducing Falls and Improving Balance Performance in Parkinson’s Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Parkinson’s disease, 2019, 9626934. doi:10.1155/2019/9626934

 

Abstract

Introduction

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a common neurodegenerative disorder that may increase the risk of falls, functional limitation, and balance deficits. Tai Chi was used as an option for improving balance in people with PD. The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the effects of Tai Chi on falls, balance, and functional mobility in individuals with PD.

Method

The literature search was conducted in PubMed, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, PEDro, Medline, Embase, sportDISCUS, Trip, and the National Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations in Taiwan. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) analyzing the effects of Tai Chi, compared to no intervention or to other physical training, on falls, functional mobility, and balance in PD patients were selected. The outcome measurements included fall rates, Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Functional Reach (FR) test, and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Two reviewers independently assessed the methodological quality and extracted data from the studies using the PEDro scale.

Results

Five RCTs that included a total of 355 PD patients were included in this review. The quality of evidence in these studies was rated as moderate to high. Compared to no intervention or other physical training, Tai Chi significantly decreased fall rates (odds ratio = 0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.30 to 0.74, and p=0.001) and significantly improved balance and functional mobility (BBS mean difference (MD) = 3.47, 95% CI 2.11 to 4.80, and p < 0.001; FR MD = 3.55 cm, 95% CI 1.88 to 5.23, and p < 0.001; TUG MD = −1.06 s, 95% CI −1.61 to −0.51, and p < 0.001) in people with PD.

Conclusion

This meta-analysis provides moderate- to high-quality evidence from five RCTs that Tai Chi could be a good physical training strategy for preventing falls and improving balance and functional mobility in people with PD.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6409066/

 

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women with Tai Chi

Improve Movement and Flexibility in Older Women 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” – 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. It is obviously important to discover methods to improve balance and decrease the number of fall in the elderly.

 

Tai Chi training is designed to enhance and regulate the functional activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. It includes balance training and has been shown to improve balance and coordination. Because it is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for an elderly population. So, it would seem that tai chi practice would be well suited to improving balance and coordination in seniors and thereby reduce the likelihood of falls.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/ ), Zou and colleagues recruited elderly women (> 65 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a Tai Chi practice or no-treatment control conditions. Tai Chi was practiced under the supervision of a Tai Chi master for 90 minutes, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. They were measured before and after practice for physical activity and hip and foot flexibility. They also walked a short distance and their movements of the knee, hip, and ankle were analyzed through a kinematic analysis.

 

They found that the Tai Chi group and not the control group after the 8-week practice period had significant improvements in their walking including stride length, gait speed, stance phase, swing phase, and double support time. They also had significant improvements in their hip and foot flexibility and range of motion of the knee, hip, and ankle. No adverse events as a result of Tai Chi practice were reported by the participants.

 

These findings conclusively document the ability of Tai Chi practice to help maintain the flexibility and range of motion of elderly women. This is particularly important as it suggests that these women would be less likely to fall and maintain a high quality of life. In addition, as Tai Chi is gentle and safe, is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion, is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. So, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an almost ideal gentle exercise to maintain the health and well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve movement and flexibility in older women with Tai Chi.

 

“Unlike other exercises, TCE may contribute to improving the quality of life and reducing depression in patients with chronic diseases.” – X. Wang

 

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., Wang, C., Tian, Z., Wang, H., & Shu, Y. (2017). Effect of Yang-Style Tai Chi on Gait Parameters and Musculoskeletal Flexibility in Healthy Chinese Older Women. Sports, 5(3), 52. http://doi.org/10.3390/sports5030052

 

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to examine the effect of Yang-style Tai chi (TC) on gait parameters and musculoskeletal flexibility in healthy Chinese female adults. Sixty-six female adults aged >65 years were randomly assigned to either an experimental group (67.9 ± 3.2 years of age) receiving three 90-min simplified 24-form TC sessions for eight weeks, or a control group (67.4 ± 2.9 years of age) who maintained their daily lifestyles. All study participants were instructed to perform a selected pace walking for recording gait parameters (stride length, gait speed, swing cycle time, stance phase, and double support times) at both baseline and after the experiment. Low-limb flexibility and range of motion at specific musculoskeletal regions (hip flexion, hip extension, and plantar flexion, as well as anterior and lateral pelvic tilts, pelvic rotation, and joint range of motion (hip, knee, and ankle)) were also assessed in the present study. Multiple separate 2 × 2 Factorial Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures were used to examine the effects of TC on the abovementioned outcomes between baseline and posttest in the two groups. When compared to those in the control group, older female adults who experienced the 8-week Tai chi intervention demonstrated significant improvements in most of the outcome measures. More specifically, positive changes in the TC group were found, including gait parameter (p < 0.001 for all; stride length (1.12 to 1.24, +8.6%), gait speed (1.06 to 1.21, +13.9%), stance phase (66.3 to 61.8, −5.5%), swing phase (33.7 to 38.4, +10.1%), double support time (0.33 to 0.26, −21.1%)), flexibility-related outcomes (hip flexion (90.0 to 91.9, 22.6%, p < 0.0001), single hip flexor (6.0 to 2.0, −61.5%, p = 0.0386), and plantar flexion (41.6 to 49.7, +17.5%, p < 0.0001)), and range of motion (anterior pelvic tilt (9.5 to 6.2, −34.7%, p < 0.0001), lateral pelvic tilt (6.6 to 8.3, +23.8%, p = 0.0102), pelvic rotation (10.3 to 14.7, 28.2%, p < 0.0001), hip range of motion (29.8 to 32.9, +13.5%, p = 0.001), and ankle range of motion (28.0 to 32.6, +11.1%, p < 0.0001)). The present study supports the notion that the practice of TC has a positive effect on healthy older female adults in improving gait parameters and flexibility, counteracting the normal functional degeneration due to age.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5968961/

 

Improve Relaxation and Mood by Walking in a Forest

Improve Relaxation and Mood by Walking in a Forest

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Forest bathing isn’t just hiking, but it also isn’t hard to learn. It won’t necessarily change your life. But it has roots in a real, scientifically observed process, and it’s a great way to learn basic meditation.” – Nick Douglas

 

Modern living is stressful, perhaps, in part because it has divorced us from the natural world that our species was immersed in throughout its evolutionary history. Modern environments may be damaging to our health and well-being simply because the species did not evolve to cope with them. This suggests that returning to nature, at least occasionally, may be beneficial. Indeed, researchers are beginning to study nature walks or what the Japanese call “Forest Bathing” and their effects on our mental and physical health.

 

Mindfulness practices have been found routinely to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress. People have long reported that walking in nature elevates their mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But, there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that walking in nature might improve relaxation and mood and relieve stress..

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Walking in Bamboo Forest and City Environments on Brainwave Activity in Young Adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5896408/ ), Hassan and colleagues recruited college students and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. The first group walked for 15 minutes in a bamboo forest on day one while on the second day walked for 15 minutes in a city. The second group did the same but in reverse order. Participants blood pressure and mood were measured before and after the walks and their brain activity was measured with an Electroencephalogram (EEG) during the walks.

 

They found that walking in both environments reduced blood pressure but blood pressure was significantly lower both before and after the bamboo forest walk. During the bamboo forest but not the city walks, the EEG had significant increases in rhythmic activity in the alpha (8-12 cycles per second) and theta (4-7.5 cycles per second) rhythm bands. These are the same bands that increase during meditation. There was also a significant increase in the beta (13-30 cycles per second) rhythm band which is associated with attention. In addition, after the bamboo forest walk, the students reported feeling more relaxed, comfortable, and natural, and less anxious, than after the city walk.

 

These are interesting results that demonstrate that “Forest Bathing”, walking in a bamboo forest for 15 minutes, produces both a physiological and psychological relaxation and mood improvement. The Electroencephalogram (EEG) results suggest that walking in a forest has similar effects to that of meditation. Indeed, performing walking meditation in nature has been found to significantly improve responses to stress. These results, then, are empirical support for the long-held belief that walking in nature has particularly beneficial effects.

 

So, improve relaxation and mood by walking in a forest.

 

“The idea that spending time in nature is good for our health is not new. Most of human evolutionary history was spent in environments that lack buildings and walls. Our bodies have adapted to living in the natural world. But today most of us spend much of our life indoors, or at least tethered to devices. Perhaps the new forest bathing trend is a recognition that many of us need a little nudge to get back out there.” – Allison Aubrey

 

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

 

Hassan, A., Tao, J., Li, G., Jiang, M., Aii, L., Zhihui, J., … Qibing, C. (2018). Effects of Walking in Bamboo Forest and City Environments on Brainwave Activity in Young Adults. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2018, 9653857. http://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9653857

 

Abstract

Background. In Japan, “Shinrin-yoku” or forest bathing (spending time in forests) is a major practice used for relaxation. However, its effects on promoting human mental health are still under consideration. The objective of this study was to investigate the physiological and psychological relaxation effects of forest walking on adults. Sixty participants (50% males; 50% females) were trained to walk 15-minute predetermined courses in a bamboo forest and a city area (control). The length of the courses was the same to allow comparison of the effects of both environments. Blood pressure and EEG results were measured to assess the physiological responses and the semantic differential method (SDM) and STAI were used to study the psychological responses. Blood pressure was significantly decreased and variation in brain activity was observed in both environments. The results of the two questionnaires indicated that walking in the bamboo forest improves mood and reduces anxiety. Moreover, the mean meditation and attention scores were significantly increased after walking in a bamboo forest. The results of the physiological and psychological measurements indicate the relaxing effects of walking in a bamboo forest on adults.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5896408/

 

Spiral Up Your Mood with Walking Meditation

 

walking-meditatio2-gotink

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“One of the most useful and grounding ways of attending to our body is the practice of walking meditation. Walking meditation is a simple and universal practice for developing calm, connectedness, and embodied awareness. It can be practiced regularly, before or after sitting meditation or any time on its own, such as after a busy day at work or on a lazy Sunday morning. The art of walking meditation is to learn to be aware as you walk, to use the natural movement of walking to cultivate mindfulness and wakeful presence.” – Jack Kornfield

 

Contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi / qigong, have been shown to elevate mood in normal individuals and individuals who suffer from mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Two common techniques used with patients with mood disorders are Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Both of these therapies contain a number of mindfulness training techniques including sitting meditation, body scan, and walking meditation. Although the effects of sitting meditation have been well documented, little is known about the effects of walking meditation.

 

It has long been reported that walking in nature elevates mood. It appears intuitively obvious that if it occurred in a beautiful natural place, it would greatly lift the spirits. But, there is little systematic research regarding these effects. It’s possible that conducting walking meditation in nature might potentiate the effects by combining two mood enhancing practices. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness and mood stimulate each other in an upward spiral: a mindful walking intervention using experience sampling.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1355140297843226/?type=3&theater

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

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010615/

Gotink and colleagues studied the effects of waking meditation in nature on the moods of adults who had completed courses in either Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). The participants were measured a week before and during a walking meditation retreat of either 1, 3, or 6-days. Walking occurred in nature along the river Rhine in the Netherlands. During the walk their moods (content, cheerful, relaxed, energetic, calm, sad, irritated, insecure, and tense and mindful observing, acting with awareness, non-judgment, and non-reacting) were sampled at random times by responding to a signal on a cell phone which also collected the responses. Before and after the control and walking periods the participants filled out scales measuring depression, anxiety, rumination, and mindfulness.

 

They found that the mindful walking significantly increased positive moods and mindfulness and decreased negative moods. They also found that state mindfulness at one sampling significantly predicted increased positive moods and decreased negative moods at the next sampling. Similarly, positive moods at one sampling significantly predicted increased state mindfulness at the next sampling while negative moods at one sampling significantly predicted decreased state mindfulness at the next sampling. These findings suggest that walking in nature improves mood and that mindfulness increases appear to precede improvements in mood.

 

These are interesting findings. They demonstrate that the experience sampling method can be employed to monitor the growth in mindfulness and mood during walking in a natural setting. They further suggest that walking in nature produces an upward spiral of mindfulness and mood enhancement where increased mindfulness at one moment increases mood at the next which increases mindfulness at the next which increases mood at the next and so on.

 

So, spiral up your mood with walking meditation.

 

“The Buddha stressed developing mindfulness in the four main postures of the body:  standing, sitting, lying down and walking.  He exhorted us to be mindful in all these postures, to create a clear awareness and recollection of what we are doing when we are in any particular posture.” – Buddhist Society of Western Australia

 

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

Gotink, R. A., Hermans, K. S. F. M., Geschwind, N., De Nooij, R., De Groot, W. T., & Speckens, A. E. M. (2016). Mindfulness and mood stimulate each other in an upward spiral: a mindful walking intervention using experience sampling. Mindfulness, 7(5), 1114–1122. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0550-8

 

Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the feasibility and effectiveness of mindful walking in nature as a possible means to maintain mindfulness skills after a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) or mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course. Mindful walking alongside the river Rhine took place for 1, 3, 6, or 10 days, with a control period of a similar number of days, 1 week before the mindful walking period. In 29 mindfulness participants, experience sampling method (ESM) was performed during the control and mindful walking period. Smartphones offered items on positive and negative affect and state mindfulness at random times during the day. Furthermore, self-report questionnaires were administered before and after the control and mindful walking period, assessing depression, anxiety, stress, brooding, and mindfulness skills. ESM data showed that walking resulted in a significant improvement of both mindfulness and positive affect, and that state mindfulness and positive affect prospectively enhanced each other in an upward spiral. The opposite pattern was observed with state mindfulness and negative affect, where increased state mindfulness predicted less negative affect. Exploratory questionnaire data indicated corresponding results, though non-significant due to the small sample size. This is the first time that ESM was used to assess interactions between state mindfulness and momentary affect during a mindfulness intervention of several consecutive days, showing an upward spiral effect. Mindful walking in nature may be an effective way to maintain mindfulness practice and further improve psychological functioning.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010615/