Many older adults are turning to complementary and integrative health approaches to promote health and well-being. Mind and body practices, in particular, including relaxation techniques and meditative exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are being used by older Americans, both for fitness and relaxation, and because of perceived health benefits. A number of reviews of the scientific literature point to the potential benefit of mind and body approaches for symptom management, particularly for pain. Check out what the science says about mind and body practices for these 4 common aging-related conditions:
- Osteoarthritis. Practicing tai chi—a traditional Chinese form of exercise—may be helpful for managing osteoarthritis of the knee. Guidelines issued by the American College of Rheumatology conditionally recommend tai chi, along with other non-drug approaches, for this condition.
- Menopausal symptoms. Overall, there is scientific evidence suggesting that some mind and body approaches, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation may provide some relief from common menopausal symptoms.
- Sleep problems. Using relaxation techniques, (e.g., progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, and deep breathing exercises) before bedtime can be helpful components of a successful sleep regimen.
- Shingles. Tai chi may help older adults avoid getting shingles by increasing immunity to varicella-zoster virus and boosting the immune response to varicella vaccine in older people. While there have only been a few studies on the effects of tai chi on immunity to varicella, the results so far have been promising.
These mind and body practices are generally considered safe for healthy people when they’re performed appropriately. If you have any health problems, talk with both your health care provider and the complementary health practitioner/instructor before starting to use a mind and body practice. For information about natural products for common aging-related conditions, check out these tips.