Mindfulness Yoga May Reduce Anxiety, Depression in Parkinson’s Patients, Study Suggests

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Yoga focused on mindfulness — a mental exercise focused on accepting oneself in the present — could lower anxiety and depression as well as motor impairment in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease, a study says.

The study, “Effects of Mindfulness Yoga vs Stretching and Resistance Trainiang Exercises on Anxiety and Depression for People With Parkinson Disease A Randomized Clinical Trial,” was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

As many as half of Parkinson’s patients experience anxiety and/or depression, but these psychological effects are often overlooked by researchers.

Previous research has shown that exercising can provide health benefits for people with Parkinson’s. Similarly, mind-body exercises — yoga, dance, tai chi, etc. — have been shown to have benefits for physical health. These exercises also often include a mental or spiritual component, so they could have a positive impact on patients’ psychological health as well.

To study this, researchers recruited people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s at several centers in Hong Kong. All patients were able to stand and walk unaided; those being treated for psychiatric disorders (e.g., patients taking antidepressants) were excluded.

The patients were divided into two groups: 71 participated in a mindfulness yoga program tailored for people with Parkinson’s; and 68 participated in a stretching and resistance training exercising regimen. Both groups, which were similar in terms of demographic characteristics and initial clinical features, met once a week for eight weeks.

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Participants in both groups showed comparable improvements in motor function over the course of the study.

Patients who participated in mindfulness yoga, in addition to physical improvements, showed significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“These benefits were remarkable because the participants who received the [yoga] intervention attended [an average] of only 6 sessions,” the researchers wrote.

Those who participated in the resistance training and stretching group showed no change in psychological symptoms.

“These findings suggest that mindfulness yoga is an effective treatment option for patients with PD [Parkinson’s disease] to manage stress and symptoms,” the researchers wrote, adding that “considering that PD is not only a physically limiting condition but also a psychologically distressing life event, health care professionals should adopt a holistic approach in PD rehabilitation.”