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Yoga, Meditation May Benefit Older Adults With Memory Problems

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Inner peace can do you a lot of good and more as yoga and meditation can help older adults with memory problems, a new study found.

Neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that a three-month yoga and meditation course can help lower the emotional and cognitive issues preceding Alzheimer's disease as well as other types of dementia.

Findings also showed that these short yoga and meditation courses work even better than the cognitive enhancement exercises that are often deemed the top choices for mild cognitive problem management.

"Memory training was comparable to yoga with meditation in terms of improving memory, but yoga provided a broader benefit than memory training because it also helped with mood, anxiety and coping skills," said senior author Helen Lavretsky from the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA.

For the study, the research team enrolled 25 participants who are all over 55-years-old and reported some memory problems. The participants completed brain scans and memory tests at the start and end of the study period.

Eleven adults underwent 1-hour weekly memory enhancement drills as well as 20-minute daily memory exercises.

Fourteen adults were enrolled in a 1-hour weekly Kundalini yoga class and a daily 20-minute Kirtan Kriya meditation which they could do at home.

The meditation technique has been around in India for centuries and includes visualization, chanting and hand movements. All the participants finished their sessions in 12 weeks.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that both groups' verbal memory skills improved, which helped them remember lists of words and names.

However, the second group, who practiced yoga and meditation, had higher improvement rates when it came to visual-spatial memory skills, which helped them in better navigation and remembering locations.

But that's not all, the group who took up yoga and meditation also showed higher improvements in reducing anxiety and depression.

The team also found that the second group improved coping and stress management skills better than the first group. These enhancements can help them in coping with the emotional difficulties that come with cognitive problems.

"Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit," said lead author Harris Eyre, a University of Adelaide doctoral candidate.

The new study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease on May 10. It was the first study to compare the effects of memory training exercises with the benefits of meditation and yoga.

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