Research Supports Benefits of Integrative Training

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Nov 5, 2015

Mind-body personal training is not a new concept, and yet the demand for programming that includes mind-body practices and holistic approaches seems to be increasing. This trend reflects the growth of integrative medicine and comes from consumer demand, marketing, and emerging evidence that the benefits of complementary health approaches are real or meaningful (NCCIH 2015).

Mind-body (or integrative) personal training takes into account the needs of the client

beyond

the physical body. “The trend of integrating other mind-body disciplines or providing a more holistic coaching approach to personal training is big [and] here to stay,” says San Diego–based Fabio Comana, MA, MS, faculty instructor at San Diego State University, the University of California, San Diego, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “Historically, personal training has been very physical and ‘directive’ in its orientation. For example, trainers identify issues, [create]
programs and then tell clients what to do. It’s a self-focused model that comes from medicine. Today, influences are coming from integrative medicine. We’re not only addressing physical issues; we’re also looking at cognitive and emotional aspects and how to help people change behaviors. In the future, trainers will need to be coaches, and coaching

is

a mind-body approach.”

In addition to the emerging body of research that shows the health value of specific mind-body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, guided imagery and others, growing scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of an integrative approach to lifestyle change for health improvement.

Gene Expression. Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is a leading researcher in the benefits of an integrative lifestyle program to treat disease and to improve health. His studies include physical activity; stress management through yoga, breathing, meditation, imagery and progressive relaxation; dietary changes; and social support. In a study with low-risk prostate cancer patients, participants who followed the lifestyle intervention experienced changes in gene expression that affected the cancer. Genes that promoted cancer were no longer active or were less active; genes that helped fight cancer were switched on (Ornish et al. 2008).

Telomere Length. In a follow-up study conducted 5 years later, Ornish and colleagues (2013) found that men who had adhered to the integrative lifestyle intervention showed an association with increases in relative telomere length that control group members did not. Telomere length and telomere shortening are indicators of cellular aging. Longer telomeres are associated with fewer illnesses and longer life (Ornish et al. 2013).

Some argue that these study findings provide evidence of the integrative power of these practices to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself (Roy 2010). They also support the power of “the mix”—rather than of any single lifestyle factor, such as consistent physical activity—to produce health-promoting results. More research is recommended.

To read more about mind-body personal training techniques, please see “Mind-Body Personal Training” in the online IDEA Library or in the November-December 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.


References

NCCIH. 2015. Complementary, alternative or integrative health: What’s in a name? Accessed Mar. 30, 2015. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/whatiscam.

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at www.shirleyarcher.com.

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