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Monday, August 13, 2012 - Page updated at 05:00 a.m.

Meditation, exercise may help limit cold, flu, study suggests

By Aisha Qidwae
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Meditation or exercise may lower the rate, length and severity of the flu or common cold, according to preliminary findings of a study conducted in Wisconsin.

"The bottom line is both the mental health and physical health matter in helping improve (the) flu and cold," said physician Bruce Barrett, author of the randomized controlled trial and associate professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison medical school's department of family medicine. "If it turns out to be true, it's a bigger deal than flu shots," Barrett said.

The study was published in July in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The study of 149 individuals split into three groups found: Participants meditating on a regular basis reported 257 days of the common cold or flu, people who exercised regularly reported 241 days of illness, and the control group had the highest number of days in which they had cold and flu symptoms, 453. The groups were studied from September 2009 to May 2010. Missed days due to the flu or common cold were the lowest in the meditating group at 16, followed by the exercise group at 32. Those in the control group missed 67 days.

David Shapiro, an expert on integrative medicine and Eastern therapies and an internist at Columbia St. Mary's in Milwaukee, said the study showed that something certainly changed after one group engaged in a fairly intense meditation program.

"Some of the interesting things was that some people were infected the same amount yet they had less severe symptoms in terms of global severity and days of illness," said Shapiro, who was not part of the study. "It's pretty striking for (the) meditation group in terms of the decreased number of days of illness."

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