(HealthDay News) – Training in mindfulness meditation or exercise is linked to a decrease in the severity and duration of acute respiratory infections (ARIs) in adults.

To assess the preventive effects of meditation or exercise on incidence, duration, and severity of ARI illness, Bruce Barrett, MD, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and associates conducted a randomized trial involving 149 adults (82% female; 94% 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 mediation vs. control. There was a trend toward lower severity in the exercise vs. control group and for lower duration in the exercise and meditation groups vs. control. There were significantly fewer ARI-related days of work missed for the exercise and meditation groups vs. 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.

Full Text