The surprising effects of meditation for healthy aging

The surprising effects of meditation for healthy aging

To improve the physical and mental well-being of seniors, a European team demonstrates the benefit of combining mindfulness meditation and health education courses. This combination would improve self-compassion and increase physical activity. Ideal for aging healthier!

More and more people are living into old age, and it’s crucial that we find ways to support the mental and physical health of people as they age” judge Nathalie Marchant who led an original study combining meditation and health education courses.

From subjective cognitive decline to real cognitive decline

To assess a state of cognitive health, health professionals rely on validated tests. But beyond this validated quantification, the patient’s words should not be minimized. Thus, “subjective cognitive decline” corresponds to the patient’s feeling of a deterioration of his cognitive faculties without this being apparent during standard cognitive tests. And studies have shown that these people are at higher risk of developing actual cognitive decline.

Previous work has concluded that mindfulness meditation and health education (a practice which consists of implementing prevention and care measures beneficial to one’s health) would have a positive impact on anxiety of people reporting subjective cognitive decline.

More generally, self-compassion (feeling of kindness towards oneself, feeling of common humanity and feeling of kindness towards negative thoughts) as well as physical activity have previously been associated with better mental health, itself associated with an improvement in general health, well-being and quality of life.

Faced with these avenues, a European team wanted to evaluate the interest of 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation and health education courses on self-compassion and the practice of physical activity in people reporting subjective cognitive decline.

Meditation and health education, the winning combo for seniors

The study included 147 patients from clinics specializing in memory disorders in Europe, Spain, Central Europe and the United Kingdom divided into two: one group followed the meditation courses for 8 weeks and the other, the health education course. The impact of the interventions was evaluated by blood tests, cognitive assessments as well as questionnaires.

Results: Participants who completed the mindfulness meditation training showed an improvement in their self-compassion. Participants who followed the health education training showed an increase in their physical activity. These changes were still present six months later. This suggests that these new skills and habits were integrated into the participants’ daily lives.

According to Olga Klimecki, co-author of the study, “Our results constitute an encouraging first step towards the implementation of a mindfulness-based intervention, which could be used to strengthen self-compassion in older adults.“. Julie Gonneaud adds: “Given the particularly deleterious effect of a sedentary lifestyle on the health of aging populations, showing that health education intervention programs can strengthen engagement in physical activity among older adults is particularly promising. for promoting healthy aging“.

The results argue in favor of a dual approach combining the practice of mindfulness meditation and participation in health education programs to improve the mental well-being and lifestyle habits of older people reporting cognitive decline. subjective.