Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 1100 Delaplaine Ct, Madison, WI 53715, USA.
The Annals of Family Medicine (Impact Factor: 5.43). 07/2012; 10(4):337-46. DOI: 10.1370/afm.1376
Source: PubMed


This study was designed to evaluate potential preventive effects of meditation or exercise on incidence, duration, and severity of acute respiratory infection (ARI) illness.
Community-recruited adults aged 50 years and older were randomized to 1 of 3 study groups: 8-week training in mindfulness meditation, matched 8-week training in moderate-intensity sustained exercise, or observational control. The primary outcome was area-under-the-curve global illness severity during a single cold and influenza season, using the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey (WURSS-24) to assess severity. Health care visits and days of missed work were counted. Nasal wash collected during ARI illness was assayed for neutrophils, interleukin-8, and viral nucleic acid.
Of 154 adults randomized into the study, 149 completed the trial (82% female, 94% white, mean age 59.3 ± 6.6 years). There were 27 ARI episodes and 257 days of ARI illness in the meditation group (n = 51), 26 episodes and 241 illness days in the exercise group (n = 47), and 40 episodes and 453 days in the control group (n = 51). Mean global severity was 144 for meditation, 248 for exercise, and 358 for control. Compared with control, global severity was significantly lower for meditation (P = .004). Both global severity and total days of illness (duration) trended toward being lower for the exercise group (P=.16 and P=.032, respectively), as did illness duration for the meditation group (P=.034). Adjusting for covariates using zero-inflated multivariate regression models gave similar results. There were 67 ARI-related days of-work missed in the control group, 32 in the exercise group (P = .041), and 16 in the meditation group (P <.001). Health care visits did not differ significantly. Viruses were identified in 54% of samples from meditation, 42% from exercise, and 54% from control groups. Neutrophil count and interleukin-8 levels were similar among intervention groups.
Training in meditation or exercise may be effective in reducing ARI illness burden.

Download full-text


Available from: Roger Brown,
27 Reads
  • Source
    • "ARIs are extremely common, and influenza is the most serious viral ARI. It is difficult to distinguish symptoms of influenza from other viral ARIs [39]. Differentiating influenza virus from the highly contagious RSV, which also causes epidemics and can severely affect the same age groups as well as those with weakened immune systems, is especially important [40, 41]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The substantial economic impact of influenza on society results primarily from lost work time and reduced productivity of patients and caregivers and increased use of medical resources. Additionally, since the 1980s, aging of the US population has meant rising influenza-related morbidity and mortality. According to the most current published data on this topic, in 2003 the total economic burden of influenza epidemics in the USA across all age groups was US$87.1 billion. As of February 2013, overall vaccine effectiveness for the 2012/2013 season was estimated to be 56 %. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases has concluded that more effective vaccines and vaccination strategies are needed. Moderate efficacy of the influenza vaccine, continued questions regarding the value of treatment with antivirals, and a growing self-care movement have led to increased use of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, which play a vital role in managing symptoms associated with mild to moderate influenza and provide an estimated US$102 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare system. A primary benefit to society of using OTC medicines to manage influenza is decreased use of the healthcare system, thereby mitigating the socioeconomic burden of influenza. Considering the stresses placed on the US healthcare system and the substantial productivity losses resulting from seasonal influenza as well as the growing self-care movement, OTC medicines will play an important role in the course of future influenza epidemics.
    Drugs 08/2014; 74(13). DOI:10.1007/s40265-014-0245-1 · 4.34 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Extreme exercise can potentially have adverse impact on host immunity (Shepard and Shek, 1996; Barrett et al., 2012). Previous studies have demonstrated an increased rate of URTI symptoms in marathon participants for various reported time periods following a marathon race (Nieman et al., 1990; Peters and Bateman, 1983). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Physical stressors, such as strenuous exercise, can have numerous effects on the human body including the immune system. The aim of this study was to evaluate the gene expression profile of Th1/Th2 cytokines and related transcription factor genes in order to investigate possible immune imbalances before and after a marathon. Blood samples were collected from 16 normal volunteers 24–48 h before and one week after completing a marathon race. Gene expression of Th1 and Th2 related cytokines from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) was analyzed using Human Th1-Th2-Th3 RT2 Profiler PCR Array and qRT-PCR that measured the transcript levels of 84 genes related to T cell activation. We found that PBMC express a characteristic Th2-like gene profile one week post-marathon compared to pre-marathon. The majority of genes up-regulated one week post-marathon such as IL-4, GATA3, and CCR4 were Th2 associated. For Th1-related genes, CXCR3 and IRF1 were up-regulated one week post-marathon. There was a trend of down-regulation of two Th1 related genes, T-bet and STAT1. Th3-related gene expression patterns did not change in the study. The ratios of both IFN-γ/IL-4 and T-bet/GATA3 gene expressions were significantly lower one week after marathon. These findings suggest that a Th1/Th2 immune imbalance persisted at least 1 week after completion of a marathon which offers a mechanistic rationale for the increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections often reported after strenuous exercise.
    Molecular Immunology 08/2014; 60(2):129–134. DOI:10.1016/j.molimm.2014.03.004 · 2.97 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "With scientific evidence and public interest aligned in the search for effective therapies for the common cold, especially using “holistic” healthy approaches, we designed and conducted a three-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating efficacy of meditation and exercise interventions for ARI illness prevention and treatment during a single cold/flu season (N = 154) [14]. Findings of this trial have been consistent with the existing literature and suggested that 8 weeks of training in meditation (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) [15] or moderate-intensity exercise can improve ARI-related outcomes. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Background. A randomized trial suggests that meditation and exercise may prevent acute respiratory infection (ARI). This paper explores potential mediating mechanisms. Methods. Community-recruited adults were randomly assigned to three nonblinded arms: 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (N = 51), moderate-intensity exercise (N = 51), or wait-list control (N = 52). Primary outcomes were ARI illness burden (validated Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey). Potential mediators included self-reported psychophysical health and exercise intensity (baseline, 9 weeks, and 3 months). A Baron and Kenny approach-based mediational analysis model, adjusted for group status, age, and gender, evaluated the relationship between the primary outcome and a potential mediator using zero-inflated modeling and Sobel testing. Results. Of 154 randomized, 149 completed the trial (51, 47, and 51 in meditation, exercise, and control groups) and were analyzed (82% female, 94% Caucasian, 59.3 ± SD 6.6 years old). Mediational analyses suggested that improved mindfulness (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale) at 3 months may mediate intervention effects on ARI severity and duration (P < 0.05); 1 point increase in the mindfulness score corresponded to a shortened ARI duration by 7.2-9.6 hours. Conclusions. Meditation and exercise may decrease the ARI illness burden through increased mindfulness. These preliminary findings need confirmation, if confirmed, they would have important policy and clinical implications. This trial registration was NCT01057771.
    Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 09/2013; 2013(rr-8):952716. DOI:10.1155/2013/952716 · 1.88 Impact Factor
Show more