Health benefits of mindfulness

WASHINGTON — The many forms of mindfulness are trending. There are estimates that about one in every seven working Americans now engages in some form of mindfulness. And while many may have heard the term, not too many people know exactly what it means or how it can benefit them.

Admittedly, there are many definitions to be found. But mindfulness — at its simplest — is a focus on the moment or on one’s awareness without distraction. Lean Plate Club™ blogger Sally Squires explains that you can be mindful of what you’re thinking, of what you’re doing and of how you’re moving, and it can take many forms including meditation, yoga and Tai Chi, for example.

She says public health officials are definitely paying attention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that yoga participation has nearly doubled from 6 to 9 percent of the population, meditation has increased from 8 to 9 percent and interest in Tai Chi and the lesser-known Chi-Gong (Qigong) are also increasing.

Squires said there are estimates that nearly 2.5 million people in the U.S. and about 250 million people worldwide are actively practicing Tai Chi. And health experts are starting to notice health benefits.

“It’s low impact … you’re shifting your weight as you slowly move your arms … it’s almost ballet-like, but in slow motion,” Squires said. “We know that this is good for older people in maintaining balance because that is something that declines with age.”

In 2017 alone, there have been at least 60 studies published on Tai Chi and its effects on a host of medical conditions. Some of the top take-aways from the research, according to Squires: group Tai Chi classes were found to be most effective for patients with Parkinson’s disease; women with fibromyalgia experienced improved heart function after practicing Tai Chi for 12 weeks; elderly women experiencing knee pain improved their sleep; people struggling with anxiety improved their stress levels; obese older women experienced cognitive function improvements after practicing Tai Chi and adding weight training.

Squires said you can find examples of Tai Chi on YouTube and on many on-demand videos on cable television systems.

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