Who knew meditation could be so handy during cold and flu season?
A small new study finds that mindfulness meditation and moderate exercise seem to have protective effects against cold and flu, with people who engage in the practices having less severe, shorter and fewer symptoms of acute respiratory infection -- and fewer days missed from work due to the sickness -- than people who don't engage in either practice.
Specifically, undergoing mindfulness training was linked with a 40 to 50 percent decrease in symptoms, while exercise was linked with a 30 to 40 percent decrease in symptoms, researchers reported, compared with people who did neither activity.
"The apparent 40 to 50 percent benefit of mindfulness training is a very important finding, as is the apparent 30 to 40 percent benefit of exercise training," study researcher Dr. Bruce Barrett, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a statement. "If this pans out in future research, the impact could be substantive indeed."
The study, published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine, included 149 people, most of whom were women, with an average age of 59. Fifty-one of them were assigned to have mindfulness meditation training for eight weeks, 47 were assigned to do moderate exercise for eight weeks (like biking or running), and 51 were not assigned to do anything.
Then, after the eight-week period, the researchers tracked study participants' symptoms during cold and flu season, and also collected nasal wash samples from them.
Researchers found that people who did meditation had 27 total "episodes" of cold or flu symptoms, lasting a total of 257 days. And the people who exercised had 26 total "episodes" of cold and flu symptoms, lasting 241 days. But the people who did neither exercise nor meditation had 40 total "episodes" of cold or flu symptoms, lasting 453 days.
Recently, a review of research published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science broke down what exactly it is about mindfulness meditation that seems to make us healthier. They deduced that mindfulness is able to promote regulation of attention, body awareness, self-awareness and regulation of emotion -- all of which help us in different aspects of our lives.
For more amazing facts about meditation, click through the slideshow: