The practices of yoga and meditation have often been credited to improving overall mental and physical health. Now there’s a study further proving their long-term health benefits.
According to a paper published in Frontiers in Immunology, mind-body exercises like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and Qi gong can suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation.
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To discover this, researchers analyzed 18 previously published studies that looked at the biological effects of these types of practices. They found that people that regularly took part in these mind-body exercises had fewer signs of inflammation.
Lead author Ivana Buric, a PhD student in Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in England, told Time, “Sitting meditation is quite different than yoga or Tai Chi, yet all of these activities—when practiced regularly—seem to decrease the activity of genes involved in inflammation.”
As the authors point out in their paper, although inflammation can protect against infection and injury, due to the primarily psychological stress of today’s society, the inflammatory response can actually impair physical and mental health. With a decrease in inflammatory proteins, people are less likely to experience inflammation-related diseases and conditions.
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There are other lifestyle changes that can affect your gene expressions, such as eating and exercising. However, there isn’t enough information out there yet to compare this to the mind-body practices. But it’s at least worth a shot.
“By choosing healthy habits every day, we can create a gene activity pattern that is more beneficial for our health,” Buric says. “Even just 15 minutes of practicing mindfulness seems to do the trick.”