Home » Fitness News & Advice » Health Benefits of Meditation

Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is the practice of sitting still and breathing in a controlled manner for extended periods of time. While the practice has been around for a millennia, meditation has recently emerged as a popular approach to regulating both physical and mental wellbeing. Whether it’s used as a cool down in trendy yoga studios or to brainstorm in Silicon Valley boardrooms, meditation is proving to have wide appeal due to its calming nature. And now the science is weighing in. What ancient practitioners probably intuitively knew all along, modern science is now beginning to demonstrate. Meditation has a real impact on your health…


1. Stress Reduction

Perhaps the biggest impact that meditation has on our health has to do with counteracting the debilitating and wide-ranging effects of stress. A medical consensus has emerged over the past decade that chronic stress causes all sorts of problems including higher blood pressure, decreased immunity, and impaired cognitive functions. When you feel stressed, your body releases the “stress hormone,” cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol in your system is a problem on various levels and finding a way to reduce that level could help prevent a number of health issues from developing down the road. This is where meditation comes into play.

According to a 2013 study by the journal Health Psychology, the practice of meditation was shown to have an impact on the reduction of cortisol. The study followed its subjects for 3-months during a meditation retreat where they were trained in mindfulness, controlled breathing, and other meditative practices. Their cortisol levels were measured before and after the 3-month retreat and the researchers found that the cortisol level tended to trend downward for the participants.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

Once stress is reduced, then you can begin to analyze more specific effects of meditation on your health. The first area to take a look at is blood pressure. Meditation can help normalize blood pressure because of what’s called the “relaxation response,” which helps produce more of the compound nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps blood vessels open up which then helps reduce blood pressure.

Dr. Randy Zusman of Massachusetts General Hospital explained to NPR how prescribing meditation for patents with high blood pressure could lead to a reduction in need for common blood pressure medication. Once patients were trained to meditate in order to achieve the relaxation response, the results were very encouraging. According to Zusman, over 60 percent of patients found that the relaxation response worked to lower their blood pressure to the point that they could stop taking some of their medication.

3. Increased Immunity

A vigorous immune system is obviously crucial to living a healthy life, which is why we do all kinds of things to boost it, like taking vitamin C and drinking Echinacea tea. A number of recent studies have shown that meditation can also play an integral role in maintaining and even strengthening your immune system. According to researchers at the Infanta Cristina Hospital in Spain, meditation, specifically Transcendental Meditation (one of the various schools of meditation), was shown to increase the level of cells in our blood that fight off viruses and bacteria. These cells, specifically subsets of leukocytes and lymphocytes, were found in higher levels of those who practiced medication versus those who did not.

Another study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that meditation in older adults could prevent the expression of a certain group of genes that activate inflammation. New studies are coming out on a regular basis probing the positive impact that meditation has on the complex immune system.

4. Brain Development

Perhaps one of the most exciting areas of meditation research is the brain. A slew of studies have come out linking meditation with an increase in cortical thickness, an increase in grey matter in both the hippocampus and frontal areas, and an overall increase in brain volume. With medical imaging technology, researchers can actually watch what meditation does to the brain in real time and over an extended period of time.

Take for instance a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by a team at the University of Oregon. These researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to map how meditation changes the structure of the brain. They found that with as little as two weeks of regular meditation, the brain begins to build axonal density, which means a greater number of signaling connections. After a month of meditation, the number of signaling connections continued to increase, while an increase in myelin (a protective tissue around the axons) also began to increase.

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Meditation is also linked to what goes on in your gut. This is especially important for the 10 to 15 percent of the population that suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a disorder that effects women in disproportionate numbers compared to men. Specifically, utilizing mindfulness meditation can help women reduce the severity of IBS symptoms, which include chronic abdominal pain along with irregular bowel habits.

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that an 8-week program of meditation targets the mental problems linked to IBS, such as anxiety, stress, and depression, and helped to reduce the severity of the IBS symptoms compared to a control group who did not participate in the meditation program. A 3-month follow up was done, which showed that the positive impact of meditation continued beyond the initial 8-week training. Another study published this year in PLOS ONE by a team of researcher associated with Harvard University confirmed the positive impact that meditation can have on IBS and also linked meditation to the alleviation of Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, a chronic condition associated with Crohn’s Disease.


More on ActiveBeat
  • Plants That Repel Mosquitoes Naturally
    There's nothing more frustrating than that familiar buzzing followed by the itchy prick of a mosquito while you're trying to enjoy a nice evening or day outside.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • The Best Mascaras for Long Lashes
    Most women dream about having longer and fuller lashes. One can only hope! It's also one of the main reasons we invented mascara in the first place.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • The Best Face Washes for Sensitive Skin
    The struggle is real for people with sensitive skin who are looking for a good face wash that won't irritate their skin, especially since most products contain an array of...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Best Natural Remedies For Gout
    Gout is a type of arthritis that causes a great deal of pain and discomfort in the joints.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Foods Good For Your Kidneys
    The kidneys have an extremely important job. We all have two bean-shaped organs located below our ribs and on either side of our spine.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • A Breakdown Of The Myers-Briggs Personality Types
    The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test that examines all the different personality types and how a person's personality can dictate their strengths and...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Best and Worst Foods For Gallbladder Issues
    For the many Americans who suffer from gallbladder issues, like gallstones, on a daily basis, it's important to learn more about nutrition with a special focus on foods that won't...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • The Best Anti-Aging Foundation For Mature Skin
    Aging is inevitable, but that doesn't stop us from trying to slow the whole process down or at least look good while we're doing it!
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Causes of Chronic Dry Mouth or Xerostomia
    Dry mouth (or xerostomia as it's medically known) may not be a particularly painful health matter, but for those who deal with the condition it is both irritating and concerning.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Possible Explanations for Unintentional Weight Gain
    We're going to start with a disclaimer here – if you've been eating a lot of high-carb foods and not getting any exercise, you're bound to put on some pounds depending on your...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Mesothelioma Stages: What to Expect
    Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is often caused by asbestos exposure. It's an "aggressive, malignant cancer caused when inhaled asbestos fibers lodge in the lining of...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Symptoms of Sugar Withdrawal and How to Cope
    There are so many amazing health benefits that come from cutting out sugar. Not only does it reduce a person's risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, it also helps them lose...
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Pros and Cons of Dental Veneers
    For most people our teeth are really important to us because it's one of the first things we notice about another person's appearance.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Anti-Aging Diet: Best and Worst Foods to Eat
    None of us can avoid aging or even slow it down, but there are things we can do to make the process a little smoother.
    Fitness News & Advice
  • Everything to Know Before Getting Dental Veneers
    A smile is one of the first things we about someone else and for many people and for some people,  a smile reflects confidence.
    Fitness News & Advice