Health, Fitness and Injury Management

 

Mindful movements build brain resilience

Building brain resilience with mindfulness

The latest and greatest on decreasing your chance of Alzheimer's disease or any other form of neurodegeneration involves mindful movement.

A program of mindful movement was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in the 1970's, by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, to treat stress, pain and a range of maladies and life issues that were difficult to treat in a medical setting. The mindfulness-based movements, such as yoga, Pilates, and body awareness, included any physical activity where the participant needed to use their brain to do the activity. The program, known as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was successful at treating stress, pain and other disorders, however the researchers did not know why it was successful. Kabat-Zinn is known worldwide as a meditation teacher responsible for bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society.

Fast-forward a few decades to June, 2017, when the Journal of Translational Psychiatry reported on a factor, called the REST1 Factor, that appears to be a key regulator of an aging brain's stress response2.  The report indicates that the REST factor concentration is decreased in a person’s blood under conditions of stress and Alzheimer's disease, leading the research team to suggest that increasing the REST factor concentration may be neuroprotective. 

People who received mindfulness training showed increases in the blood concentrations of REST, as compared with the control group that did not receive mindfulness training. As well, increased REST levels were correlated with a reduction in psychiatric symptoms associated with stress and Alzheimer's disease risk.  All of this data supports the role of REST factor in slowing or minimizing neurodegeneration. 

This is great news for people who participate in Pilates, yoga, and other mindfulness activities. In addition to lubricating your joints, building strength and flexibility in your muscles, you’re also increasing the strength, flexibility, and resilience of your mind!   

1  Repressor Element 1-Silencing Transcription

2 Journal of Translational Psychiatry, https://www.nature.com/articles/tp2017113

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