Meditation reduces the severity and duration of acute respiratory infections

Training in mindfulness meditation or exercise is linked to a decrease in the severity and duration of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) in adults, according to a study published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

To assess the preventive effects of meditation or exercise on incidence, duration, and severity of ARI illness, Bruce Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and associates conducted a randomized trial involving 149 adults (82 percent female; 94 percent white; mean age, 59.3 years). Participants underwent eight weeks of training in mindfulness meditation (51 participants) or moderate-intensity sustained exercise (47 participants), or were part of an observational control (51 participants).

The researchers identified 27 ARI episodes and 257 days of ARI illness in the meditation group, 26 episodes and 241 illness days in the exercise group, and 40 episodes and 453 days in the control group. Data showed that the mean global severity was 144, 248, and 358 for meditation, exercise, and control, respectively, with severity significantly lower for meditation versus control. There was a trend toward lower severity in the exercise versus control group and for lower duration in the exercise and meditation groups versus control. There were significantly fewer ARI-related days of work missed for the exercise and meditation groups versus the control group (32, 16, and 67, respectively).

“If these results are confirmed in future studies, there will be important implications for public and private health-related policy and practice, as well as for scientific research regarding mechanisms of health maintenance and disease prevention,” the authors write.

The study was funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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