In order to avoid getting a cold, people can try to meditate or exercise. A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that adults who practiced mindful meditation or moderately intense exercise for eight weeks suffered less from season ailments during the following winter than those who didn’t do either.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Annals of Family Medicine. Researchers used 150 participants, 80% of them were women, all were older than 50, and randomly assigned them to three groups. One group was trained for 8 weeks in mindful meditation. Another did 8 weeks of brisk walking or jogging under the supervision of trainers, and the control group did nothing.
The researchers monitored the respiratory health of the subjects with biweekly phone calls and laboratory visits from September through May. They didn’t inquire whether the subjects continued to meditate or exercise after the eight-week training period.
Participants who had meditated missed 76% fewer days of work from September through May than the control group. Those who exercised missed 48% fewer days during this interval. The severity of colds and flus differed between the two groups. Those who exercised or meditated suffered for an average of 5 days while the colds in the control group lasted 8 days.
Lab tests confirmed that the self-reported length of colds correlated with the level of antibodies in the body, which is a biomarker for the presence of viruses.
Mindful meditation training appears to prevent or reduce the length of colds, states Bruce Barrett of the Department of Family Medicine. He cautions that these findings are preliminary.
Reference: “Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial” by Bruce Barrett, Mary S. Hayney, Daniel Muller, David Rakel, Ann Ward, Chidi N. Obasi, Roger Brown, Zhengjun Zhang, Aleksandra Zgierska, James Gern, Rebecca West, Tola Ewers, Shari Barlow, Michele Gassman and Christopher L. Coe, July 2012, Annals of Family Medicine.