Starting the day with a moment of Zen can clear your head, but what can it do for your body?
If you’ve ever dealt with mental health issues — anxiety, depression, inability to focus — you’ve probably been advised to try meditation, or maybe you’ve been the one offering this advice to others. Meditation, once reserved for yogis and the experimental set, is how many people now center themselves and clear their heads, but this cranial activity also offers a host of benefits for your body. Here’s how.
The Science of Meditation
“There’s a lot of research out there on mindfulness and physical health,” says Sarah Romotsky, RD, health strategist at Headspace, a meditation app with more than 20 million users. And indeed, meditation has been shown to help with a range of issues, including obesity, chronic disease, pain management and even the flu: One study compared the incidence of acute respiratory infections (ARI) among three groups of adults — a control group, a group that performed moderate-intensity exercise and a group that received mindfulness meditation training. After eight weeks, the control group experienced 40 ARI episodes, while both the exercise and meditation groups reported 26 and 27 ARIs, respectively, thereby validating the efficacy of both modalities as a way to combat illness.
But the positive impact of meditation doesn’t stop at the sniffles: A systematic study review published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found a correlation between meditation and neurodegeneration, with significant increases in gray matter volume in those who meditated. Another report in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that meditation was associated with a decrease in chronic pain, and a study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science showed that college students who received six weeks of meditation training experienced a significant decrease in blood pressure and resting heart rate.
Fight the Fight or Flight
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