Mindfulness can actually improve older people's cognition – Innovita Research

Everyone wants to stay sharper for longer, but sadly age is often linked to cognitive decline. Nowadays people are trying to stay more comfortable with themselves by allocating some time for mindfulness. Does that help keep cognitive decline at bay? Scientists at UCL found that mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults.

Mindfulness is very important for a better quality of life and health, but does it improve cognition? Image credit: Claridad.io via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientists looked through a lot of previously published studies of mindfulness and found 45 that were the most relevant to them. In total 2,238 people participated in these studies. Scientists tested their mindfulness and cognition capabilities over at least four sessions. In most of them a certified instructor taught participants some mindfulness techniques, but participants had to continue performing those exercises on their own as well. Mindfulness exercises are quite simple and basically revolve around meditation, breathing and movement.

This study showed that mindfulness does improve cognition, even if the effect is quite modest. Probably the most positive result of this study was realization that mindfulness helps people over 60. In other words, mindfulness exercises are particularly effective for the older population, who needs the help with cognition the most. Cognitive function declines significantly with age and scientists are hopeful that maybe mindfulness exercises can guard people from this problem. In fact, scientists think that mindfulness can help restore the lost levels of executive function, which is the only part of cognition that was affected by mindfulness exercises.

Mindfulness exercises are easy and they have other benefits too. They help people to reduce stress and sleep better. However, in terms of improving cognition they were not the best. Scientists found that mindfulness exercises in this regard were only better than doing nothing. In other words, social interaction, brain training, other health or educational programmes still outperform mindfulness exercises in terms of improving cognition. 

Dr Natalie Marchant, senior author of the study, said: “Mindfulness practices do not share much in common with cognitive test measures, so it is notable that mindfulness training’s impact appears to transfer to other domains. While our review only identified a small benefit to executive function, it remains possible that some types of mindfulness training might deliver larger gains.”

You should try mindfulness exercises. They have many different forms and offer many different advantages. It may help you clear out your thoughts, push the stress away, improve your productivity, and reduce anxiety.

Source: UCL