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Martial arts: mindful exercise to combat stress

  • UNICEPLAC - Centro Universitário do Planalto Central Apparecido dos Santos

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Stress can promote cardiovascular and metabolic responses that may favor the development of a number of diseases, especially when it is experienced chronically. Mindfulness (MF) practices are adaptations from eastern meditative techniques which are utilized in different psycho-social therapies for promotion of physical and mental health. The psychological construct of MF refers to a special form of attention to internal and external phenomena in the present moment, including openness to experience in a non-critical attitude (i.e. without judgments). Mindfulness-based practices and interventions are particularly effective in promoting health for clinical conditions involving chronic stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Similarly, regular exercise has multifarious benefits for health, especially activities that strongly integrate both psychological and physiological training. Such is the case for martial arts (MA), the whole of which could be classified as mindful movements. Given that MA requires expenditure of energy done with a high level of concentration, engagement in this form of exercise may provide an interesting and novel strategy for enhancing physical and mental benefits. The regular practice of MA could elevate MF levels of practitioners and thus influence positively on stress management and therefore quality of life and well-being.
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European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt 1; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa 1;
Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen 2; Eduardo Fontes 1;
Cláudio Córdova 1; Marcelo Demarzo 3; Daniel Boullosa 1
1. Post - Graduation in Physical Education. Catholic University of Brasília, Brazil.
2. Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA.
3. "Mente Aberta" Brazilian Center for Mindfulness and Health Promotion, Department of
Preventive Medicine, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil.
Stress can promote cardiovascular and metabolic responses that may favor the development of a
number of diseases, especially when it is experienced chronically. Mindfulness (MF) practices are
adaptations from eastern meditative techniques which are utilized in different psycho-social
therapies for promotion of physical and mental health. The psychological construct of MF refers to a
special form of attention to internal and external phenomena in the present moment, including
openness to experience in a non-critical attitude (i.e. without judgments). Mindfulness-based
practices and interventions are particularly effective in promoting health for clinical conditions
involving chronic stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. Similarly, regular exercise has
multifarious benefits for health, especially activities that strongly integrate both psychological and
physiological training. Such is the case for martial arts (MA), the whole of which could be classified
as mindful movements. Given that MA requires expenditure of energy done with a high level of
concentration, engagement in this form of exercise may provide an interesting and novel strategy
for enhancing physical and mental benefits. The regular practice of MA could elevate MF levels of
practitioners and thus influence positively on stress management and therefore quality of life and
Key Words: mindfulness, meditation, exercise, attention, stress, depression
El estrés genera respuestas cardiovasculares y metabólicas que pueden favorecer el desarrollo de
diversas enfermedades, especialmente cuando es experimentado de forma crónica. Las prácticas de
atención plena son adaptaciones de técnicas meditativas orientales que son utilizadas en diferentes
terapias psicosociales para la promoción de la salud física y mental. El constructo psicológico de la
atención plena se refiere a una forma especial de atención hacia fenómenos internos y externos en
el momento presente, con una actitud no crítica hacia la experiencia (i.e. sin juicios). Las prácticas y
las intervenciones basadas en la atención plena son particularmente efectivas en la promoción de la
salud en condiciones clínicas que incluyen estrés crónico, ansiedad y síntomas depresivos. Del
mismo modo, el ejercicio regular posee múltiples beneficios para la salud, especialmente aquellas
actividades que integran sólidamente tanto el entrenamiento psicológico como el fisiológico. Este es
el caso de las artes marciales que podrían ser caracterizadas como ejercicios con atención plena.
Dado que las artes marciales requieren de un gasto energético, al mismo tiempo que altos niveles
de concentración, podríamos considerar la adhesión a esta modalidad de ejercicio como una
estrategia novedosa e interesante para el incremento de los beneficios físicos y mentales asociados.
La práctica regular de artes marciales puede elevar los niveles de atención plena e influir así
positivamente en el tratamiento del estrés y, por lo tanto, en el bienestar y la calidad de vida de sus
Palabras clave: atención plena, meditación, ejercicio, atención, estrés, depresión
Daniel Alexandre Boullosa Álvarez
Post - Graduation in Physical Education. Catholic University of Brasília, Brazil
QS 07, LT1 S/N - Sala 111 - Bloco G. 71966-700 Águas Claras DF Brasil.
Submitted: 12/05/2015
Accepted: 03/06/2015
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
The subtle and silent transition from health to illness occurs with the
rupture of homeostasis. Under normal conditions, physical and psychological
stressors contribute to complex bodily reactions that promote positive
adaptations thus increasing tolerance capacity for adverse situations (Lipp et
al., 2002). In contrast, chronic stress is associated with a number of adverse
physiological alterations (Demarzo et al., 2014) and worse lifestyle behaviors
(Stults-Kolehmainen & Sinha, 2014), which can result in the development of
cardiovascular, metabolic and mental pathologies (Hammen, 2005).
Among the diverse contemplative experiences (i.e. focused attention, open
monitoring, compassion, loving kindness), the millenarian practice of
Mindfulness (MF) is highlighted as a meditative technique characterized by the
continuous and wide-attention monitoring to present perceptual experiences
with the absence of judgment or value judgment (Kabat-Zinn, 1998). The
psychological construct of MF is constituted by two main components: i)
attention processing to internal (cognitive, emotional and somatic) and
external perceptions (routine and daily life experiences); ii) attitude of open
and non-critical monitoring to those experiences (Bishop et al., 2004). In the
Western World, MF practice is an adaptation of contemplative Eastern
techniques that has gained increasing recognition, and is mainly applied
through mindfulness-based interventions by medical and psychosocial
therapists (Demarzo et al., 2014; Neale, 2006). Studies suggest that this
particular kind of attention, through well-structured practices and programs,
may contribute to positive alterations in health, such as better autonomic
control of heart rate (Tacón et al., 2003; Mankus et al., 2013) and lower systolic
blood pressure (Zeidan et al., 2010), but especially improved control of chronic
stress (Chiesa & Serretti, 2009; Ludwig & Kabat-Zinn, 2008; Biegel et al., 2009).
Moreover, interventions based on these techniques have demonstrated positive
results in clinical populations exhibiting elevated symptoms of anxiety (Hoge et
al., 2013; Khoury et al., 2013) and depression (Joo et al., 2010; Sanders, 2010).
Further, results from recent studies suggest that expert Buddhist meditators
present lower activity of neural structures (e.g., amygdala, insular cortex and
orbital frontal gyrus) related to the control of emotional responses to
sensations and thoughts (Davidson & Begley, 2012) which in turn control
autonomic, endocrine and immunological axes.
Some fundamental practices in MF programs include movements executed
with full attention to internal physical sensations, which could help regulate
physiological responses to chronic stress (Demarzo et al., 2014). During these
activities, the attention is intentionally directed to interoceptive and
proprioceptive sensations, such as feeling how much tension each muscle
generates while walking, or feeling the breath and heartbeats while breathing
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 35
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
deeply and slowly. Indeed, these techniques have been referred to as mindful
movements which have demonstrated various physical and mental benefits
(Demarzo et al., 2014; LaForge, 2012). It is well recognized that physical
exercise in itself plays an important role in stress regulation and health
promotion, because its practice favors the development of physiological
regulatory mechanisms for the control of acute and chronic stress, apart from
promoting immediate psychological benefits (Huang et al., 2013). Consequently,
these practices may be particularly effective at combining both physical and
psychological aspects of training.
A martial art (MA) is the combination of physical movements with strategy
and a variety of precise and coordinated techniques conducted for combat
purposes. Each of these are embedded within a structured philosophy,
knowledge-base, system of values and tradition (Green, 2001). Moreover, a MA
is a practice that also strives for an aesthetic representation during combat,
without focus on its destructive potential. It is common to find in the same MA
one modality in which the opponents fight thorough physical contact, and
another in which there is an individual simulation of combat without physical
contact. In karatê they are called kumite and kata, in taekwondo gyeorugi and
poomsaee, and in wushu sanda and taolu. Within taiji quan, for instance, it is
recognized that the execution of combat movements without physical contact
(taolu) is an exercise with an important meditative component (Yu, 1996;
Abbott & Lavretsky, 2013). This system integrates body and mind because its
practice demands constant attention and focus on the execution of movements
(Yu, 1996; Diepersloot, 1997). Results from validated questionnaires (Park,
Reilly-Spong, & Gross, 2013) suggest that MA practice favors MF in daily tasks
and experiences and, consequently, influencing stress control related issues
(Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011; Nedeljkovic et al., 2012a; Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab,
Nowadays, primary prevention health programmes that include meditation
practice associated with MA are recognized and promoted by public health
systems. However, it is important at the current time to determine precise and
evidence-based methodologies and training protocols for healthcare
practitioners. Moreover, although meditation with full attention is present in
some MA (Abbott & Lavretsky, 2013), little is known about the demands and
characteristics of attention systems for each MA, style and technique. This
dearth of information limits the validity of exercise prescriptions which focus
on this form of physical activity. Therefore, the purpose of this literature review
was to search evidence that supports the validity of regular MA practice as a
mindful movement for stress management.
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 36
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
The search for relevant articles was performed independently by two
researchers in May of 2014. This was conducted in the Pubmed database (see
Figure 1) and included only articles reporting original data in the English
language. The keywords utilized were: (martial arts OR Asian martial arts OR
wushu OR gong fu OR aikido OR karate OR judo OR taekwondo OR taiji OR tai chi)
AND (mindfulness OR meditation OR mental health OR stress OR stress
FIGURE 1: Keywords utilized in Pubmed database.
Inclusion criteria for the identified articles included the following: (a) a MA
was utilized as a mode of exercise in at least one group of participants; and (b)
at least one parameter related to mental health, stress management,
dispositional MF or meditation-related indices was evaluated (see Figure 2).
Articles focusing on high-level sport were excluded.
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 37
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
FIGURE 2: Search strategy and selection criteria.
In the initial search, 376 studies were found, from which 60 met the
inclusion criteria. From these studies, 51 were excluded when exhibiting one of
the following characteristics: (a) being a literature review; or (b) being a study
related to injuries and training methodologies in high performance sports. In
this regard, some authors did not suggest a link to health promotion in
competitive sports and were thus excluded. Nine studies were further
evaluated (see Table 1).
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 38
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
Description of selected studies from Pubmed according to established criteria.
References Subject
Purposes Methods Assessments Results Conclusions
PILIAE et al.,
39 men and
average age of
66 years old.
To observe
changes in
aspects in
persons with
cardiac risk
factors after
12 weeks of
taiji quan (TJ)
60 minute
classes, 3
sessions per
week over 12
weeks. Data
before, after 6
and 12 weeks
s for POMS,
in mood state,
stress. Self-
efficacy to
12 weeks of
TJ improves
mood and
stress and
al., 2006
59 men and
women HIV
patients; age >
18 years old.
To observe the
effects of TJ
practice on
al factors in
with different
stages of AIDS.
TJ groups of
therapy and
stress control
based on
Sessions of TJ
with 60
duration, 1
session per
week over 10
between the
stress level
and coping
stress of
patients with
HIV (IES) and
quality of life
related to
health (FAHI).
TJ group
quality of life,
social welfare
stress related
to HIV.
TJ helps to
stress in
with HIV
presents as
therapy for
ESCH et al.,
21 men and
women; age >
18 years old.
To observe the
practice of TJ
on the
regulation of
and physical
90 minute
classes, 12
sessions over
18 weeks.
Stress level
through blood
heart rate,
cortisol (SC)
and perceived
SC; scores
at SF-36
TJ decreases
stress and
helps with
the control
al and
l stress.
WANG, 2008
30 men and
students with
average age of
24 years old.
To observe the
effects of TJ on
perceptions of
the self-rated
mental and
Classes of TJ 2
sessions a
week, 60
minutes each
over 12
weeks. Data
before and
Physical and
aspects with
s in physical
and mental
body pain;
and social
TJ improves
of health
and may
benefits to
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 39
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
TABLE 1 (Continuation)
et al., 2010
166 men and
women with
age ranging
from 18 and
41 years old.
To observe
changes in
(MF) with
Pilates, TJ and
® and to
determine if
these are
related to
changes in
stress, mood,
and sleep
15 week
before, during
and after
The MF level
was evaluated
FFMQ, sleep
through PSQI;
were; FDMS,
sleep quality,
and self-
mood and
Body motion
such as TJ,
improve MF,
stress, self-
and self-
et al., 2011
208 men and
women with
age between
18 and 48
years old.
To determine
if TJ classes
change levels
of MF and if
these changes
are related to
stress, self-
efficiency and
and sleep
Classes of TJ.
2 sessions per
week, 50 min
each over 15
weeks. Total
of 25h
Control group
classes, 1
session per
week, 150
min or 2
sessions per
week, 75 min
each. Total of
37 h and 30
min of
MF level and
were assessed
with several
PSS4, SRE and
of MF found
only in TJ
group. MF
with welfare,
and sleep
The practice
of TJ
benefits of
MF and
C et al., 2012
70 men and
students with
age between
23 and 50
years old.
To observe the
impact of TJ
practice on the
perception of
MF and self-
TJ classes
twice a week
over 12
before, after
and 2 months
MF level
with FMI-SF.
with the SCS.
in self-
attribution to
and 2 months
TJ practice
can improve
of MF and
in healthy
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 40
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
TABLE 1 (Continuation)
C et al., 2012
70 men and
women, with
age between
23 and 50
years old.
To investigate
the effects of
practice of TJ
responses in
healthy men
and women.
Control and
groups over
12 weeks.
during a
stress test to
verify the
measured by
levels of SC,
heart rate
(HR) and
amylase in
with PSS and
with ADS-K
and CES-D;
mood with
in CS
reactivity, HR,
amylase and
Positive in
response to
TJ practice
l and
al stress
STUDY 1:159
men and
of Aikido (AK);
20 non-
as control
12 men and
women in
group; 20
men and
women in
control group.
changes in MF
with AK
whether MF is
affected by
stages of AK
s that evaluate
the level of
MF and notion
of self-
(MAAS) in
2: Evaluation
of each
stage (0, 2, 5
and 9 months
of practice).
Control group
did not
in any activity
and was also
evaluated in
same periods.
MF was
with specific
(KIMS and
and black
belts had
higher MF
than controls
and less
with each
level. AK
MF than
The practice
of AK is able
to increase
MF, being
higher as
POMS: Profile of Mood States. PSS: Perceived Stress Scale. TCSE: Tai Chi exercise self-efficacy. DIS: Dealing with Illness
Scale. IES: Impact of Events Scale. FAHI: Functional Assessment of HIV Infection. SF-36: Short Form Health Survey 36.
FFMQ: Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire. PSQI: Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. FDMS: Four Dimensional Mood Scale.
PSS4: Perceived Stress Scale - 4. SRE: Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy Scale. FMI-SF: Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory
Short Form. SCS: Self-Compassion Scale. TSST: Trier Social Stress Test. VAS: Visual Analogue Scale. ADS-K: Allgemeine
Depressionsskala - Kurzform. CES-D: Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. MDMQ: Multidimensional
Mood State Questionnaire. MAAS: Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. KIMS: Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 41
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
Among the 9 studies analyzed, 8 utilized taiji quan as intervention and only
one of the studies utilized another MA, i.e. aikido (Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab,
2013). Moreover, only two studies (Esch et al., 2007; Nedeljkovic et al., 2012b)
also evaluated physiological parameters to evaluate the impact of the
interventions for stress management. In others two studies (Caldwell et al.,
2010, 2011), participants that practised a MA were compared with others who
were involved in another activity, such as Pilates, quiet reading, and/or
discussion and learning groups.
The studies showed positive changes in stress perception with programs
ranging from 10 to 18 weeks (Robins et al., 2006; Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006;
Esch et al., 2007; Wang, 2008; Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011; Nedeljkovic et al.,
2012a, 2012b) and 1 study demonstrated that stress management capacity
remained stronger at 1 month follow-up post training (Esch et al., 2007). Also, a
significant reduction of psychological stress for HIV infected individuals
(Robins et al., 2006) and improved perceived stress levels for patients with
cardiovascular risk (Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006) were found. The results also
showed reduction of cortisol and alpha-amylase levels, helping to control heart
rate reactivity during stressful situations (Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006; Esch et al.,
2007), which altogether indicate that the practice of MA seems to have a
positive effect for the management of chronic stress.
MF levels were elevated more through the practice of MA (Caldwell. et al.,
2010; Nedeljkovic et al., 2012a; Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab, 2013) than other
activities, such as reading, suggesting that the longer an individual devotes time
to such practice, the greater are the improvements (Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab,
These studies suggested that, in general, MA were able to positively
influence both stress management and MF levels as well as to influence health
related parameters. Apart from this, MA have been demonstrated to be more
effective when compared to others forms of physical activity and leisure. MA
practice has resulted in greater improvements for MF levels and for stress
management than Pilates (Caldwell et al., 2010) and recreational activities
(Caldwell. et al., 2010; Nedeljkovic et al., 2012a, 2012b). Furthermore, studies
by Caldwell et al. (2010), Nedeljkovic et al. (2012a, 2012b) and Lothes, Hakan
and Kassab, (2013) concluded that taiji quan and aikido were able to elevate MF
levels through MA training. In addition, Lothes, Hakan and Kassab, (2013)
suggested that the length of time devoted to training influences MF levels, with
experienced individuals demonstrating greater levels compared to novice or
moderately trained individuals.
Taiji quan practice resulted in positive changes in stress perception for
training programs of 10 weeks (Taylor- Piliae et al., 2006), 12 weeks
(Nedeljkovic et al., 2012a, 2012b; Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006; Wang, 2008), 15
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 42
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
weeks (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011), and 18 weeks duration (Esch et al., 2007).
The duration of the sessions in all the studies was between 50 and 60 min, with
two sessions per week. As expected, the results did not show important
differences when related to time of the sessions.
The benefits achieved through taiji quan practice seem to be maintained for
a period after the end of the training programs. For instance, Esch et al. (2007)
demonstrated that stress management capacity remained stronger at 1 month
follow-up post training. Further, Nedeljkovic et al. (2012a, 2012b) suggested
from their results that alterations can persist up to 2 months.
The objective of four of the studies analyzed (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011;
Nedeljkovic et al., 2012a; Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab, 2013) was to observe the
effect of MA practice on changes in MF levels. The other five studies observed
the effects of MA practice on stress and health. Wang (2008) observed that taiji
quan seems to improve the self-perception of mental and physical health. The
study by Robins et al. (2006) found a significant reduction in psychological
stress of HIV infected individuals using taiji quan as intervention. Taylor-Piliae
et al. (2006) observed that taiji quan could improve perceived stress levels
after 12 weeks of intervention in patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Another two studies found similar results after similar interventions in healthy
students (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011).
Other parameters related to stress, such as perception in sleep quality,
humor, self-regulatory abilities, self-efficacy (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011),
quality of life and social and emotional well being (Robins et al., 2006) also
showed significant and positive changes after MA intervention. Meanwhile,
positive changes in physiological markers related to stress were recorded in
the studies of Nedeljkovic et al. (2012b) and Esch et al. (2007), thus suggesting
that taiji quan practice was also able to reduce cortisol and alpha-amylase
levels, while helping to control heart rate reactivity during stressful situations.
The results of the present review suggest that the practice of some MA, like
mindful exercise, favorably affects stress management (Demarzo et al., 2014;
Brown & Ryan, 2003) and trait MF (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011; Nedeljkovic et
al., 2012a; Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab 2013). MA training can be characterized as
meditative movements as it is a performance that simultaneously stimulates
both body and mind (Faggianelli & Lukoff, 2006; Waysun, 1990; Wang et al.,
2009). Therefore, MA may provide multiple pathways to stress management,
which may contribute to a better control of dysfunctional stress (Demarzo et al.,
2014) and ultimately physical and mental health.
MA training is capable of promoting physiological adaptations in blood
pressure (Esch et al., 2007; Tsai et al., 2003), heart rate and circulating levels of
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 43
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
cortisol and alpha-amylase (Esch et al., 2007; Nedeljkovic et al., 2012b), and
psychological adaptations (Zhang et al., 2012) including changes in humour
(Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011; Taylor-Piliae et al., 2006), anxiety and depression
levels (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011; Wang et al., 2009; Li, Hong, & Chan, 2001;
Chou et al., 2004; Yau, 2008), sleep quality (Caldwell et al., 2010, 2011), and
attention processing (Converse et al., 2014). In addition to the aforementioned
outcomes, taiji quan specifically has been demonstrated to increase bone
density (Zhang & Fu, 2008), control glucose (Chang et al., 2008) and lipid levels
(Rosado-Pérez et al., 2013), and also has induced a greater antioxidant effect
when compared to moderate intensity exercises (Rosado-Pérez et al., 2013).
Moreover, Toskovic, Blessing and Williford (2002) suggested that taekwondo
could be prescribed for cardiovascular conditioning and weight control, while
Milanez et al. (2012) showed that regular karate training promoted positive
adaptations in cardiorespiratory capacity. Overall, these previous findings
confirm the positive impact that MA could have on different physiological and
psychological health related parameters.
Dermazo et al. (2014) previously suggested that the increase of MF
capacity through physical exercise could be associated with a greater
perception of somatic sensations, body temperature fluctuations, and changes
in respiratory rhythm. Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that the results of
recent studies suggest that individuals with elevated levels of self-perception
show a greater activation of the insula and, therefore, an enhanced perception
of small changes in heart and respiratory rates, for example, in patients with
panic syndrome (Davidson & Begley, 2012). These enhanced perceptions
associated with the physiological and hormonal changes have a positive effect
on stress management.
Taiji quan and aikido are modalities that incorporate important meditative
components (Yu, 1996; Gleason, 1995; Hu, 1995; Santos & Coutinho, 2004;
Faggianelli & Lukoff, 2006) and, following previous findings, it could be said
that these modalities significantly increased MF levels as measured by
internationally utilized questionnaires. Moreover, greater practice time was
related to greater control of attention. Furthermore, when comparing MA to
other intellectual and physical activities, MA practitioners demonstrate more
favourable changes across a variety of different outcomes (Caldwell et al., 2010,
2011; Wang et al., 2010; Lakes & Hoyt, 2004) with some studies demonstrating
that benefits associated with MA practice may be observed up to 2 months after
the end of the activity (Nedeljkovic et al., 2012b; Wang et al., 2010). Thus, it
would seem that the practice of mindful movements could further improve
stress management and health maintenance in comparison to exercising
without a meditative component (Demarzo et al., 2014; Rosado-Pérez et al.,
2013). This could indicate that meditative monitoring and concentration during
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Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
a simulation of combat, in addition to respiratory control, would demand
greater levels of attention. However, this aspect has not been addressed yet and
further studies are needed.
Previously, it has been suggested that MF can act as a mediator between
physical activity and cardiovascular responses to stress, thus indicating the
possibility that higher levels of physical fitness are associated with better MF
levels and enhanced stress responses (Demarzo et al., 2014). Based on this
assumption, it would be possible to infer the reciprocal activity between: (a)
MA vs. Stress; (b) MF vs. Stress; (c) and MA associated with MF, working as a
mindful movement, for the physical and psychological regulation of stress (see
Figure 3).
FIGURE 3: Diagram showing the reciprocal activity between martial arts, mindfulness,
mindful exercise, and stress.
According to Binder (2007), Asian MA have many aspects in common with
other forms of physical activity and exercise; however, MA tend to value self-
knowledge and self-control, while performing a form of self-defence that
includes ethical and philosophical qualities. Therefore, certain characteristics of
MA could help to promote psycho-social changes in addition to physiological
and psychological adaptations, and probably MF levels may moderate or
mediate this process (Demarzo et al, 2014).
Given that individuals experience greater levels of MF with greater volume
of MA practice (Lothes, Hakan, & Kassab, 2013), starting these practices early
could be very useful for prophylactic purposes (Chou, 2008). Consequently,
focusing on developing MA techniques in formative stages could contribute to
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 45
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
better physical and psychological development for individuals with this
exposure. Additionally, these interventions could also mitigate the occurrence
of side effects as well potentially help to minimize the dosage of certain
medications (Abbott & Lavretsky, 2013; Chan, 2011; Kabat-Zinn, 2003). These
avenues of health enhancement should be further investigated to expand the
benefits of MA practice for public health.
It should be pointed out that there are a wide variety of MA styles and
techniques and that this variation is favourable for individuals with different
interests, preferences and physical capacities. Providing individuals with
choices and the option to select the most appropriate technique for their own
needs may help to enhance motivation and thus adherence. Such programming
could be provided in a variety of different settings thus creating opportunities
for both personal mastery and collective practice with a number of other
participants, magnifying educational objectives and a wide swath of health
parameters (Oliveira et al., 2001).
MA practice, which is associated with facets of MF, can promote body
consciousness and stimulate body expression, thus improving not only health
outcomes but also essential aspects of the school curriculum (Wall, 2005).
Therefore, including MA within a school setting may promote the development
of cognitive, behavioural and affective abilities (Lakes & Hoyt, 2004; Wall,
2008). In consideration of the potential role of MA for children and adolescents,
Lakes & Hoyt (2004) have suggested that taekwondo in school can improve
children’s social behaviour, attention levels and self-esteem. In addition,
Converse et al. (2014) concluded that taiji quan training seems to reduce
deficits in attention and hyperactivity in young adults. Overall, these findings
reinforce the potentially important role that MA practice could have, not only in
clinical but also in educational settings.
One limitation of the current review is the small number of studies
reporting data on the effect of MA on health status (Bu et al., 2010). Taiji quan
was utilized as the most common intervention therefore limiting the
comparison between various MA modalities and styles. Further studies should
clarify what MA modalities (e.g. combat vs. simulation) promote greater
changes in MF and stress management. Additionally, it should be tested if MA
practices alone or combined with other forms of meditation and physical
activity could provide more benefits for physical and psychological health when
compared to mindfulness-based interventions (e.g., mindfulness-based stress
reduction, MBSR) or increases in physical activity levels alone (e.g., walking
programs, etc.). Of note, further research would verify if the practice of MA in a
periodized fashion may magnify and prolong benefits associated with MA,
enhance interest and enjoyment, and accommodate changes in life
circumstances (e.g., travelling, holidays).
European Journal of Human Movement, 2015: 34, 34-51 46
Wesley Naves-Bittencourt; Arilson Mendonça-de-Sousa Martial arts
The practice of MA appears to provide several benefits for the management
of chronic stress. These positive effects could be based on the dual nature of MA
which includes the benefits of both PA and meditative/mindful components.
Future studies should compare different MA modalities while analyzing
different physiological and psychological adaptations for a better
understanding of the impact of MA practice on the control of chronic stress and
other health related benefits.
We would like to thank Lauri Abreu for suggesting this interesting topic
and Cintia Ramari for her contributions in an earlier version of the manuscript.
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... Yoga and martial arts, such as tai chi and qigong incorporate all of these elements. Mindful exercise practices have been shown to promote numerous health benefits, such as increases in positive emotions, dampened cortisol and cardiovascular reactivity, and lower inflammatory responses to stress (27,62,71,97). Research indicates that those who regularly practice yoga have substantially reduced serum interleukin 6 levels (one of the primary inflammatory cytokines) compared with novice yoga attendees (65). ...
... Research indicates that those who regularly practice yoga have substantially reduced serum interleukin 6 levels (one of the primary inflammatory cytokines) compared with novice yoga attendees (65). Sessions of yoga, tai chi, or other martial arts performed routinely are effective for reducing symptoms of stress and improving sense of well-being (27,71,97). ...
... Perhaps by focusing on an individual's preferences and maximizing their exercise enjoyment, the full benefits of exercise may be realized. Another strategy would be prescribing exercise regimens with additional meditative qualities, such as mindful walking, yoga, or tai chi (97). A multifaceted approach to stress and exercise may magnify results but does require the exercise practitioner to be more mindful of the complex attributes of the stress experience. ...
Chapter 13 of ACSM's Resources for the Exercise Physiologist. Health Stress Management.
... Some researchers propose that martial arts in general can be seen as one form of mindfulness and can be classified as mindfulness movements, because they are practiced with a high level of concentration. A positive change in stress perception for martial arts programs which lasted from 10 to 18 weeks has been reported (Naves-Bittencourt et al., 2015). Also, the experience of mindfulness was elevated with martial arts practice (e.g., Caldwell, Emery, Harrison, & Greeson, 2011). ...
... Also mindfulness is augmented in this specific sport group. This gives a hint that martial arts can really be classified as some kind of mindful-sports (Naves-Bittencourt et al., 2015). Mosewich, Ferguson, McHugh, and Kowalski (2019) suggest that a self-compassion intervention in sports is effective when an identification of personal strengths and challenges through incorporating self-awareness into programing is integrated. ...
Full-text available
On the one side, studies of martial arts refer to enhanced personal and social opportunities, on the other side they point to an increased aggressiveness or antisocial behaviour. Furthermore, it is often assumed that martial arts entail some aspects of mindfulness, additionally to self-compassion becoming popular in sports. Therefore it is the main goal of this study to investigate if female martial arts athletes differ in their self-compassion compared to female athletes who practice the team sport handball or just the same amount of sports, but not in a team. Ninety-four young women participated and completed the self-compassion scale. The results showed significant higher levels of the positive aspects of self-compassion, namely self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness for female martial arts athletes compared to the control group. Handball players' levels of self-compassion neither differed from the control group nor from the group of martial arts. The results are discussed as being a promising start to investigate self-compassion in different types of martial arts in further detail.
... In line with these advances, perhaps a method, such as mindfulness and/or vivid imagery, could be developed or modified to promote greater movement . This might involve generating desires/urges to move or simply paying attention and "listening" to them, thus bringing them fully into conscious awareness, gauging them, and consequently acting or consciously not acting on them Naves-Bittencourt et al., 2015;Stults-Kolehmainen et al., 2015;Keesman et al., 2016;Renner et al., 2019;Papies et al., 2020). This approach seems promising but is still theoretical, and its efficacy is unknown. ...
... Inactivity prevention is necessary because the patterns of communication difficulties, anxiety, and lack of social interaction typical of this population tend to be associated with low levels of participation in moderate to high-intensity physical activities and greater amounts of time spent engaging in sedentary behaviours [28]. In this sense, martial arts training can also be helpful to reduce stress and anxiety/depression symptoms in autistic children [29,30]. In particular, the practice of judo has shown positive results in typically developing adolescents [31]. ...
Full-text available
The public health lockdown prompted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which included school closures that may have potentially serious consequences for people with disabilities or special educational needs, disrupted an ongoing adapted judo training intervention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The purpose of this study was to compare repetitive behaviours, social interaction, social communication, emotional responses, cognitive style and maladaptive speech scores across four time-points: baseline, after an eight-week control period, after an eight-week judo intervention and after an eight-week lockdown period due to COVID-19. The sample consisted of 11 children diagnosed with ASD according to the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fifth Edition (DSM-V), with an intelligence quotient (IQ) range between 60 and 70. Significant improvements were shown following the judo intervention period compared to the baseline and control periods. However, the same values significantly declined during the COVID-19 lockdown period resulting in values lower than those recorded at baseline, and following the control period and the judo intervention. The decline in psychosocial and behavioural scores are likely due to the stress caused by the sudden halt in activity and the increase in sedentary practices associated with the lockdown.
... Some researchers have proposed that martial arts in general can be seen as one form of mindfulness training and can be classified as mindful movements because they are practiced with a high level of concentration. In fact, attention must be constantly shared between many targets such as muscles, breath, and movements (Abbott & Lavretsky, 2013;Naves-Bittencourt et al., 2015). Little is known about self-compassion and flow in martial arts. ...
Full-text available
In the last decades, studies on sport practice have shown positive relations of both self-compassion and flow with sport enjoyment, satisfaction, and performance. Despite this, little research focused on the relation between self-compassion and flow in martial arts. In particular, these relations were not examined for judo. The main aim of this study therefore was to examine the role of flow and self-compassion in judo practice. In addition, we assessed the strategies judokas employ before and during combat and examined their relations with these psychological constructs. A total of 52 judokas with different degrees of experience participated in the study and answered questionnaires on flow state during combat, personal self-compassion, and judo strategies. The results showed no correlation between the participants’ experience levels and their flow and self-compassion scores. However, we found a positive relation between the use of judo strategies and flow during combat. In conclusion, even though we found no relation between self-compassion and any of the variables considered we speculate that learning and using judo strategies may be important for developing flow states.
... In line with these advances, perhaps a method, such as mindfulness and/or vivid imagery, could be developed or modified to promote greater movement (Kavanagh et al., 2005). This might involve generating desires/urges to move or simply paying attention and "listening" to them, thus bringing them fully into conscious awareness, gauging them, and consequently acting or consciously not acting on them (Devereaux, 2013;Naves-Bittencourt et al., 2015;Stults-Kolehmainen et al., 2015;Keesman et al., 2016;Renner et al., 2019;Papies et al., 2020). This approach seems promising but is still theoretical, and its efficacy is unknown. ...
Full-text available
To better explain daily fluctuations in physical activity and sedentary behavior, investigations of motivation are turning from social cognitive frameworks to those centered on affect, emotion and automaticity, such as the Affect and Health Behavior Framework (AHBF), Integrated Framework and Affective-Reflective Theory (ART). This shift has necessitated: (a) re-examination of older theories and their constructs, such as drives, needs and tensions and (b) an inspection of competing theories from other fields that also attempt to explain dynamic changes in health behaviors. The Dynamical Model of Desire, Elaborated Intrusion Theory and others commonly share with AHBF the idea that human behavior is driven strongly by desires and/or the similar concepts of wants, urges, and cravings. These affectively-charged motivation states (ACMS) change quickly and may better explain physical activity behavior from one moment to the next. Desires for movement predominantly derive from negative but also positive reinforcement. Data from clinical populations with movement dysfunction or psychiatric disorders provides further evidence of these drivers of movement. Those with Restless Legs Syndrome, akathisia, tic disorders and exercise dependence all report strong urges to move and relief when it is accomplished. Motor control research has identified centers of the brain responsible for wants and urges for muscular movement. Models elaborated herein differentiate between wants, desires, urges and cravings. The WANT model (Wants and Aversions for Neuromuscular Tasks) conceptualizes desires for movement and rest as varying by magnitude, approach or avoidance-orientation (wants versus aversions) and as occupying independent dimensions instead of opposite ends of the same axis. For instance, one hypothetically might be in a state of both high desire for movement and rest simultaneously. Variations in motivation states to move and rest may also be associated with various stress states, like freezing or fight and flight. The first validated instrument to measure feelings of desire/want for movement and rest, the CRAVE Frontiers in Psychology | 1 November 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 568390 Stults-Kolehmainen et al. Desire, Urge and State Motivation Scale (Cravings for Rest and Volitional Energy Expenditure) is already shedding light on the nature of these states. With these advances in theory, conceptual modeling and instrumentation, future investigations may explore the effects of desires and urges for movement and sedentary behavior in earnest.
... Inactivity prevention is necessary because the patterns of communication difficulties, anxiety, and lack of social interaction typical of this population tend to be associated with low levels of participation in moderate to high-intensity physical activities and greater amounts of time spent engaging in sedentary behaviours [28]. In this sense, martial arts training can also be helpful to reduce stress and anxiety/depression symptoms in autistic children [29,30]. In particular, the practice of judo has shown positive results in typically developing adolescents [31]. ...
Full-text available
This protocol is uploaded to ResearchGate for the Project HYPER study kickoff event - July 9, 2022. The paper is "In Press". ABSTRACT: Motivation for bodily movement, physical activity and exercise varies from moment to moment. These motivation states may be "affectively-charged," ranging from instances of lower tension (e.g., desires, wants) to higher tension (e.g., cravings and urges). Currently, it is not known how often these states have been investigated in clinical populations (e.g., eating disorders, exercise dependence/addiction, Restless Legs Syndrome, diabetes, obesity) vs. healthy populations (e.g., in studies of motor control; groove in music psychology). The objective of this scoping review protocol is to quantify the literature on motivation states, to determine what topical areas are represented in investigations of clinical and healthy populations, and to discover pertinent details, such as instrumentation, terminology, theories, and conceptual models, correlates and mechanisms of action. Iterative searches of scholarly databases will take place to determine which combination of search terms (e.g., "motivation states" and "physical activity"; "desire to be physically active," etc.) captures the greatest number of relevant results. Studies will be included if motivation states for movement (e.g., desires, urges) are specifically measured or addressed. Studies will be excluded if referring to motivation as a trait. A charting data form was developed to scan all relevant documents for later data extraction. The primary outcome is simply the extent of the literature on the topic. Results will be stratified by population/condition. This scoping review will unify a diverse literature, which may result in the creation of unique models or paradigms that can be utilized to better understand motivation for bodily movement and exercise.
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Background. Regular martial art practice develops synergy between the psychophysiological self and the neurocognitive mechanism within the body. The Zen tradition of this training on mind sets helps manage stress, and improve cognition and neural control with enhanced neurotrophic signaling. Aim of the study. The present review tries to liberate the interplay between neurochemical secretions, and their relationship in respect to martial art practitioners. The interaction between two neurochemicals, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Cortisol, on the different mind sets in three martial art forms-karate, judo, and taekwondo have been highlighted in this study. Method (acquisition of evidence). PICOS strategy was adopted in a compilation of the data sources, which elaborated data extraction in relation to its Participants, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes and Study design for the numerous literature that were surveyed. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) was applied to screen, collaborate and synthesize the items for the present study. Results (evidence synthesis). Selected studies on minute and critical reviewing evidently showed that regular martial arts training could improve neurocognition and neurohormonal homeostasis, a major setback being limited research in this area. Conclusions. Data from the present findings suggest that martial arts training in regular, repetitive patterns can reduce cortisol levels and improve neurotrophic outcomes in the form of elevated secretions of BDNF. Comparative and individual inferences to prove the efficiency of martial art forms better require further research.
Anxiety is common in adolescents, when acuity spikes, higher intensity services may be required. However, it can be challenging to retain these adolescents in ongoing care once a crisis resolves. The aim of this quality improvement study was to evaluate within the crisis management segment of our behavioral health-care system the potential benefit of a mindful movement intervention for reducing anxiety in, and improving retention of acutely anxious adolescents in “bridging” clinical care while waiting for “step-down” (i.e., from inpatient to outpatient) or “step-up” (i.e., high acuity outpatient referrals to clinics with waiting lists) services. We referred 87 “bridging” youth to one of eight 6-session, 90-minute Centering, Affective Regulation, and Exposure (CARE) groups. Most (n = 81, 93%) began and 56 (64%) completed CARE. Pre/post group anxiety scores declined significantly (youth, p <.02; parent, p =.001); qualitative reports were consistent with these findings. Treatment engagement more than doubled (33% to 73% retention) and use of higher intensity services declined (no study participants were readmitted in 30 days or 90 days compared to historical readmission rates of 9.5% for 30 days or 15.6% for 90 days). Results are consistent with previous studies that suggest interventions that include meditation and mindful movement lead to lower emotional dysregulation and anxiety symptoms in youth. Importantly, participants were more likely to remain engaged in outpatient treatment and were less likely to be rehospitalized than prior to the implementation of CARE. Our institution has expanded CARE for youth with transdiagnostic anxiety/depression and has adapted CARE for youth with intellectual/developmental delays. Further empirical investigation appears warranted.
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Resumo A presença de sintomas de estresse foi pesquisada em uma amostra de 255 escolares de 7 a 14 anos de idade, oriundos de três tipos diferentes de escolas (municipal, particular e particular confessional filantrópica). Os dados foram analisados em termos de diferenças entre as escolas, sexo e série do ensino fundamental em que as crianças se encontravam. Constatou-se que o tipo de escola tinha uma forte associação com o nível de estresse dos alunos e que o número de meninas com estresse era significativamente maior do que o dos meninos. Verificou-se também que o estresse diminui nas séries mais elevadas e estava mais presente na primeira série. Pode-se concluir que as escolas têm um papel relevante no estresse infantil e que é possível dentro de uma escola apresentar níveis baixos de estresse, dependendo das características da mesma. Palavras-chave: sintomas de estresse; alunos do ensino fundamental; gênero THE STRESS OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS Abstract The presence of stress symptoms was investigated in a group of 255 children, from 7 to 14 years old from three different types of school (public, non-profit parochial and private school). The differences in stress level as a function of the type of school, gender and present school grade were analyzed. It was shown that there was a strong relation between the type of school and the number of students with stress symptoms and that the number of girls with these symptoms was significantly higher than the number of boys. It was also seen that the first grade had more children with high levels of stress than the other grades. It is suggested that schools have a significant impact on stress level of students and that it is possible for a school to present low level of stress among the students as a function of its specific traits.
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The psychological construct of mindfulness refers to an awareness that emerges by intentionally paying attention to the present experience in a non-judgmental or evaluative way. This particular quality of awareness has been associated to several indicators of physical and psychological health, and can be developed using mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), and therefore MBIs have been successfully applied as preventive and complementary interventions and therapies in medicine and psychology. Together with quiet sitting and lying meditation practices, mindful physical exercises such as "mindful walking" and "mindful movement" are key elements in MBIs and couple muscular activity with an internally directed focus, improving interoceptive attention to bodily sensations. In addition, MBIs seem to share similar mechanisms with physical fitness (PF) by which they may influence cardiovascular responses to stress. Based on these facts, it is feasible to raise the question of whether physical training itself may induce the development of that particular quality of awareness associated with mindfulness, or if one's dispositional mindfulness (DM) (the tendency to be more mindful in daily life) could moderate the effects of exercise on cardiovascular response to stress. The role of mindfulness as a mediator or moderator of the effect of exercise training on cardiovascular responses to stress has barely been studied. In this study, we have hypothesized pathways (moderation and mediation) by which mindfulness could significantly influence the effects of PF on cardiovascular responses to stress and discussed potential practical ways to test these hypotheses.
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It is important to identify effective non-pharmacological alternatives to stimulant medications that reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this study of healthy young adults, we measured the effects of training in tai chi, which involves mindful attention to the body during movement. Using a non-randomized, controlled, parallel design, students in a 15-week introductory tai chi course (n = 28) and control participants (n = 44) were tested for ADHD indicators and cognitive function at three points over the course of the 15-weeks. The tai chi students' self-report of attention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, improved compared to controls. At baseline, inattention correlated positively with reaction time variability in an affective go/no-go task across all participants, and improvements in attention correlated with reductions in reaction time variability across the tai chi students. Affective bias changed in the tai chi students, as reaction times to positive- and negative-valenced words equalized over time. These results converge to suggest that tai chi training may help improve attention in healthy young adults. Further studies are needed to confirm these results and to evaluate tai chi as therapy for individuals with ADHD.
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Psychological stress has been proposed as a major contributor to the progression of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Acute mental stress can activate the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) axis, eliciting the release of catecholamines (NE and EPI) resulting in the elevation of heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP). Combined stress (psychological and physical) can exacerbate these cardiovascular responses, which may partially contribute to the elevated risk of CVD and increased proportionate mortality risks experienced by some occupations (e.g., firefighting and law enforcement). Studies have supported the benefits of physical activity on physiological and psychological health, including the cardiovascular response to acute stress. Aerobically trained individuals exhibit lower sympathetic nervous system (e.g., HR) reactivity and enhanced cardiovascular efficiency (e.g., lower vascular reactivity and decreased recovery time) in response to physical and/or psychological stress. In addition, resistance training has been demonstrated to attenuate cardiovascular responses and improve mental health. This review will examine stress-induced cardiovascular reactivity and plausible explanations for how exercise training and physical fitness (aerobic and resistance exercise) can attenuate cardiovascular responses to stress. This enhanced functionality may facilitate a reduction in the incidence of stroke and myocardial infarction. Finally, this review will also address the interaction of obesity and physical activity on cardiovascular reactivity and CVD.
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Taiji is regarded as a mind–body practice that is characterized by gentle and mindful body movements. In contrast to the continuously growing evidence base supporting the beneficial effects of Taiji on physical and mental well-being, studies investigating its underlying mechanisms are still scarce. The aim of our study was to examine the impact of Taiji practice on self-attribution of mindfulness and self-compassion, two potential components well known for their health promoting effects. Seventy healthy participants (age range: 23–50 years) were randomly assigned either to the intervention group or to a wait list control group. The intervention group attended Taiji classes twice a week for 3 months. Before, shortly after and 2 months after the intervention, we measured the degree of self-attributed mindfulness and self-compassion in all study participants by using self-report questionnaires. Compared to the control group, the intervention group showed significantly higher increase scores in self-attributed mindfulness after the intervention that persisted 2 months later. Increases in self-attributed self-compassion were also higher in Taiji practitioners, with significant group differences from preintervention to follow-up assessment. Our findings suggest that Taiji practice can effectively enhance self-attribution of mindfulness and is likely to have beneficial effects on self-compassion in healthy participants. The role of mindfulness as a mechanism underlying the beneficial effects of Taiji practice warrants further research.
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Psychological stress and physical activity (PA) are believed to be reciprocally related; however, most research examining the relationship between these constructs is devoted to the study of exercise and/or PA as an instrument to mitigate distress. The aim of this paper was to review the literature investigating the influence of stress on indicators of PA and exercise. A systematic search of Web of Science, PubMed, and SPORTDiscus was employed to find all relevant studies focusing on human participants. Search terms included "stress", "exercise", and "physical activity". A rating scale (0-9) modified for this study was utilized to assess the quality of all studies with multiple time points. The literature search found 168 studies that examined the influence of stress on PA. Studies varied widely in their theoretical orientation and included perceived stress, distress, life events, job strain, role strain, and work-family conflict but not lifetime cumulative adversity. To more clearly address the question, prospective studies (n = 55) were considered for further review, the majority of which indicated that psychological stress predicts less PA (behavioral inhibition) and/or exercise or more sedentary behavior (76.4 %). Both objective (i.e., life events) and subjective (i.e., distress) measures of stress related to reduced PA. Prospective studies investigating the effects of objective markers of stress nearly all agreed (six of seven studies) that stress has a negative effect on PA. This was true for research examining (a) PA at periods of objectively varying levels of stress (i.e., final examinations vs. a control time point) and (b) chronically stressed populations (e.g., caregivers, parents of children with a cancer diagnosis) that were less likely to be active than controls over time. Studies examining older adults (>50 years), cohorts with both men and women, and larger sample sizes (n > 100) were more likely to show an inverse association. 85.7 % of higher-quality prospective research (≥7 on a 9-point scale) showed the same trend. Interestingly, some prospective studies (18.2 %) report evidence that PA was positively impacted by stress (behavioral activation). This should not be surprising as some individuals utilize exercise to cope with stress. Several other factors may moderate stress and PA relationships, such as stages of change for exercise. Habitually active individuals exercise more in the face of stress, and those in beginning stages exercise less. Consequently, stress may have a differential impact on exercise adoption, maintenance, and relapse. Preliminary evidence suggests that combining stress management programming with exercise interventions may allay stress-related reductions in PA, though rigorous testing of these techniques has yet to be produced. Overall, the majority of the literature finds that the experience of stress impairs efforts to be physically active. Future work should center on the development of a theory explaining the mechanisms underlying the multifarious influences of stress on PA behaviors.
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Eight psychotherapists who were also highly skilled in Aikido, a non violent Japanese martial art based on the principles of harmony and the peaceful resolution of conflict, participated in this semi-structured interview study investigating how their practice of Aikido informed their psychotherapy practice. Eight themes emerged: Aikido resulted in a mind-body unification which was described as being physically and psychologically healing; being centered in Aikido was essentially the same as being present in therapy; the Aikido strategies of ''getting off the line,'' blending, and extending were translated and utilized in psychotherapy; takemusu, the ability to spontaneously manifest technique or form in Aikido was observed to transfer into therapy practice; Aikido was described as a synthesis of a martial art and spiritual practice, both of which inform their psychotherapy practice; Aikido was viewed to be metaphorically and isomorphically related to psychotherapy. Implications for utilizing Aikido practice in training psychotherapists are discussed.
Mindfulness is a natural human mental state of moment-to-moment awareness of present experience. It is a skill that can be trained using meditation techniques that sustain focus on the present moment with a nonjudgmental attitude. Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in relieving the suffering of numerous medical and psychological conditions while enhancing well-being. In particular, affective disorders including anxiety, depression, and personality disorders are particularly well suited to demonstrate benefit to patients when integrating mindfulness meditation techniques with usual psychotherapies, primarily cognitive behavior therapies. In addition, early evidence shows that when the clinician is practicing mindfulness, there is a positive impact on the outcome of the therapy. Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions are an important technique for clinicians to be aware of in the treatment of their patients' distress. Further study using larger sample sizes and more controlled conditio...