Friday, February 15, 2019

Exercise and Meditation Influences on the Immune System

Both meditation and exercise are useful ways to get stress under control. They also seem to have an effect on the immune system. In a recent attempt to tie these issues together, researchers in Norway investigated the effects of long-term meditation on the immune system before, during, and after exercise.
What was the research about?
Twenty runners in a half-marathon race participated in the study. One group in the study consisted of 10 runners who had practiced mediation for a long time. The other group in the study consisted of 10 runners who did not practice meditation. Blood samples were taken from the participants before, immediately after, and 2 hours after the race to determine the number of immune cells in the blood stream.
The results showed that certain types of immune cells were much higher after the race, regardless of whether participants practiced long-term mediation.
Why should it matter to me?
Exercise can help people avoid getting sick by boosting the immune system. Moreover, using relaxation techniques like meditation do not interfere with this exercise-related benefit.
Source: Solberg, E. E., Halvorsen, R., & Holen, A. (2000). Effect of mediation on immune cells. Stress Medicine, 16, 185-190.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Marijuana Use and Depression
Although marijuana is illegal in the US, some people still use it. Among those who do, some use it to try to cope with stress and others just use it for the "high." Besides the legal consequences of being caught with the drug, some studies have found evidence suggesting that marijuana use may be associated with depression. Other studies have contradicted these findings, suggesting that marijuana is not related to depression. So, is marijuana use related to depressions, and if so, does it matter why a person uses the drug? A recent study by researchers from The Ohio State University and Kent State University provided some answers to these questions.
What was the research about?
The data for the study came from the 1985 portion of the Young Men and Drugs Survey, which involved face-to-face interviews with thousands of men over several years. The men who participated in the survey were a good representation of 30- to 40-year-old men in the general US population during 1985. The participants were asked questions about marijuana use, educational attainment, employment and marital status, other drug use, and depression.
The results showed that marijuana use, stress, and depression were related in a complex way. In general, men who had used marijuana at some point in their lives, spent fewer years in school, were less likely to be married or have jobs, and used other drugs (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, other illegal drugs) more, which accounted for why they became more depressed than did those who had not ever used marijuana. The frequency of current marijuana use, however, was not related to depression for everyone. Increased frequency of current marijuana use was associated with more depression only for those who used it as a way to try to cope with stress. For those who did not use marijuana as a way to try to cope with stress, increased frequency of current marijuana use was actually associated with less depression. Due to the nature of the study, however, it is unclear whether marijuana can actually cause depression for some people or whether the two just tend to seem related for other reasons.
Why should it matter to me?
People who are depressed probably should not try to use marijuana to cope with their problems because it might actually make things worse. Even though marijuana use may actually lead to less depression for those who do not try to use it as a way of coping, the negative legal consequences of being caught with the drug and the stress that most likely would follow are probably not worth risk.
Source: Green, B. E., & Ritter, C. (2000). Marijuana use and depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 40-49.

Friday, February 1, 2019

ChunDoSunBup Qi-Training
The reactions that people have to stressful events are not entirely out of their control. Stress management techniques can help people control how they respond to stressful events. Examples of stress management techniques include meditation, biofeedback, and Tai Chi. One technique that is less well-known is ChunDoSunBup (CDSB) Qi-training.
CDSB Qi-training is a traditional Korean practice that teaches people control over their mind and body. It involves three kinds of activities: sound exercise, motion, and meditation. Sound exercise teaches people to become serene, relax, and concentrate better. Motion enhances the immune system. Meditation assists with self-exploration and increases awareness of mental processes and bodily sensations.
Researchers at Wonkwang University in Korea recently reported the findings from a study assessing whether CDSB Qi-training is related to stress coping ability.
What was the research about?
Over 200 participants were recruited from the ChunDoSunBup Qi-training Centers in Korea. The participants were divided into four groups depending on whether they had 0, 1 to 4, 5 to 12, or over 13 months of training. Participants responded to a questionnaire measuring symptoms of stress, the extent to which they experienced stress responses like anxiety, depression, anger, and muscle tension.
The results showed that people who had more CDSB Qi-training had fewer symptoms of stress. They were better able to cope with stressful events.
Why should it matter to me?
CDSB Qi-training has less research to support its effectiveness than the more common stress management techniques do, but it may be a worth a try. In particular, people who have not had much luck with some of the more common stress management techniques may want to consider trying CDSB Qi-training.
Source: Lee, M. S, Ryu, H., & Chung, H.-T. (2000). Stress management by psychosomatic training: Effects of ChunDoSunBup Qi-training on symptoms of stress: A cross-sectional study. Stress Medicine, 16, 161-166.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

 Stress and the Immune System

How the immune system responds to stress depends on the time of day

What was the research about?
Forty-two undergraduate students participated in the study. The participants either did mental arithmetic (i.e., stressful task) or read magazines (i.e., nonstressful task) at either 8 AM or 2 PM. Blood samples were taken from each participant before the task, 2 minutes after beginning the task, and 60 and 90 minutes after completing the task.
The results showed that time of day mattered, but only after the stressful task. Compared to the nonstressful task, the number of natural killer cells during the stressful task were higher, regardless of the time of day. The elevated number of natural killer cells for those who had completed the stressful task at 8 AM remained elevated 60 and 90 minutes afterwards. For those who had completed the stressful task at 2 PM, however, the elevated number of natural killer cells 60 and 90 minutes afterwards dropped to less than before the task. Thus, although natural killer cells increased in number during the stressful task, afterwards, they remained higher if it was completed in the morning but dropped lower than they were to begin with if it was completed in the afternoon.
Why should it matter to me?
If possible, people should try to get stressful tasks out of the way in the morning. In this way, the immune system would be in better, instead of worse, shape for a short while after stressful tasks.
Source: Delahanty, D. L., Wang, T., Maravich, C., Forlenza, M., & Baum, A. (2000). Time-of-day effects on response of natural killer cells to acute stress in men and women. Health Psychology, 19, 39-45.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Exercise and Depression
Age-related declines in exercise are associated with depression
Many studies have shown that exercise is related to mental health. Few studies, however, have looked at whether exercise is related to mental health among older people, and those that have had a number problems that made interpretations of the results difficult. Researchers in Finland recently reported the findings from a study investigating the association between depression and exercise as people age.
What was the research about?
Six hundred and sixty-three people who were involved with the Evergreen Project participated in the study. The Evergreen Project is a large-scale study on health-related issues among the 65-year-old or older residents of a city in Finland. The participants were interviewed in their homes in 1988 and 1996. Among other things, the interviews gathered information about exercise intensity (e.g., necessary chores, regular walking, strenuous exercise) and depressive symptoms.
The results showed that participants who engaged in less intense exercise as they aged tended to suffer from more depressive symptoms over time. Participants for whom exercise intensity increased or did not change as they aged did not tend to suffer from more depressive symptoms over time.
Why should it matter to me?
Older people may want to make an effort to keep the intensity of their exercise from declining over time because doing so may decrease their risk for depression.
Source: Lampinen, P., Heikkinen, R.-L., & Ruoppila, I. (2000). Changes in intensity of physical exercise as predictors of depressive symptoms among older adults: An eight-year follow-up. Preventive Medicine, 30,371-380.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Walking Makes People Feel Better

Walking has become one of the exercises of choice for many people to stay healthy. It is simple, inexpensive, and unlikely to lead to injuries. Is it also beneficial for other reasons? A team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently looked at whether walking influences how people feel emotionally.
What was the research about?The researchers conducted four studies. In the first two studies, participants integrated 10 to 15 min walks into their daily routines. In the second two studies, participants came into the laboratory and walked on a treadmill for 10 to 15 min. Participants also completed questionnaires measuring emotions.
Across all four studies, the findings demonstrated that short (10 to 15 min) walks could make people feel happier and more energized. Additionally, after a short walk, people tend to feel calm and relaxed.
Why should it matter to me?When people feel stressed out, a short walk may be just what they need to relieve their tension or boost their mood or energy level.
Source: Ekkekakis, P., Hall, E. E., VanLanduyt, L. M., & Petruzzello, S. J. (2000). Walking in (affective) circles: Can short walks enhance affect? Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 245-275.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Progressive Relaxation vs. Classical Music
Progressive relaxation is more relaxing
When people are stressed, they have many options for reducing the stress they are experiencing. A number of stress management techniques (e.g., progressive relaxation) or other means (e.g., classical music) can be used. A researcher at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences recently investigated whether actual stress management techniques are any better at relieving stress than are other approaches to relaxation.
What was the research about?
Sixty participants ranging from 18 to 59 years of age were recruited from the community. Each participant was assigned to one of four conditions after engaging in a stressful activity. To make participants stressed, they were given 15 minutes and asked to prepare a 5-minute speech about their personal faults or undesirable habits that was to be videotaped after the 15 minutes had passed. In the progressive relaxation condition, participants engaged in progressive relaxation, which is a stress management technique that involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups one at a time. In the classical music condition, participants listened to a segment of Sonata in D major for Two Pianos by W. A. Mozart. In the attention control condition, participants listened to stories on audiotape and wrote down as much as they could remember afterwards. In the silence control condition, participants waited silently. Before, during, and after the speech-writing task, measures of attention, relaxation, and heart rate were obtained.
The results demonstrated that progressive relaxation led to more relaxation than did classical music, attention, or silence. All for conditions did lead to a lower heart rate, though. It appears as though there is something special about stress management techniques that make them more effective than other, less formal, attempts at stress reduction. Classical music, for example, did lead to more relaxation than did attention or silence, but it only served as a distraction from the stressor. Progressive relaxation not only provided a distraction but also assisted with receptivity, which is another component of relaxation.
Why should it matter to me?
People should be aware that some approaches to relaxation and stress reduction in general are more effective than others are.
Source: Scheufele, P. M. (2000). Effects of progressive relaxation and classical music on measurement of attention, relaxation, and stress responses. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 207-228.