Does meditation actually affect your health?

A recent study found that a year of meditating might reduce the number of times you visit the doctor.

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Masterfile

The research

A study published in October in PLOS One by Massachusetts General Hospital found that participants involved in a relaxation-response program (involving meditation, yoga and cognitive behavioural therapy) for one year had a 43 percent reduction in doctors’ visits the following year.

The takeaway

We need to be aware of how stress can manifest in physical symptoms, says Phil Blustein, a Calgary-based gastroenterologist and mindfulness specialist, adding it’s the underlying cause for about 70 percent of his patients’ digestive problems. “All the diversionary tactics we use to avoid stress in our life are unhealthy,” says Blustein, citing TV watching, inactivity, unhealthy eating, and alcohol and drug use.

The caveat

Patients were followed for only one year after the intervention, so it’s uncertain if the positive effects lasted. While the relaxation regime used in the study was time-consuming, Blustein says any amount helps improve baseline health.

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Update