Karate V Mindfulness for Mental Wellbeing and Cognitive Function
Moving mindfully has been shown in multiple research trials to offer benefits above and beyond non-movement based mindfulness practices, particularly in relation to nervous system arousal and its links to mental health and well-being
There is still quite a hierarchy in the perceived robustness of scientific research, with systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials sitting at the top and randomised controlled trials sitting just underneath. In this recent randomised controlled trial, scientists investigated the effects of karate versus a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) intervention on well-being and cognitive functioning in older adults. 55 adults participated in twice-weekly karate versus MBSR sessions or no training for 8 weeks.
Karate is one form of mindful movement, as indeed is yoga. Moving mindfully has been shown in multiple research trials to offer benefits above and beyond non-movement based mindfulness practices, particularly in relation to nervous system arousal and its links to mental health and well-being. This study had similar findings.
In pre- and post-assessments, subjective well-being, health, cognitive functioning, and chronic stress were measured. Cortisol levels were used as a physiological stress marker. The results showed an improvement for the karate group, but not the MBSR and control group, in subjective mental health and anxiety as well as cognitive processing speed. It is also important to note that the MBSR group did show decreases in stress. This study indicates that mindful movement practices such as karate might have something additional to offer to MBSR for anxiety and subjective mental health measures. Yoga-based studies have reported similar findings.