Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stress, obesity and meditation

I just found an article that looks at the connection between stress and obesity - particularly childhood obesity - and suggests that meditation is an important factor in addressing this problem:
Obesity among U.S. children has become of the most pressing health concerns for Americans current and future well-being...Uniting Americans in this epidemic is chronic stress, a risk factor that is enhancing our understanding of obesity and its potential treatments. Clinical respect is developing for the view that "stress is a risk factor for chronic illnesses such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension ... exhibiting greater weight, BMI and abdominal circumference," all of which are conditions that plague the U.S. population.
While scrunched faces and head-scratching often accompany the mention of "meditation," its techniques have proven to be one of the most effective non-pharmacological interventions for various ailments. Recent studies credit meditation with large improvements in mood and emotion, both of which are linked to more extreme eating and exercise habits. A study by the Duke University Department of Psychiatry found that "even brief instruction in a simple meditation technique can improve negative mood and perceived stress in healthy adults, which could yield long-term health benefits. ... Those most likely to experience negative emotions may benefit the most from the intervention." Children would presumably show an even greater result since the technique could be utilized at a preventative rather than a curative level of care. Also, currently obese children — widely reported as experiencing low self-esteem and self concept — could make major strides in enhancing their overall health by improving mood and emotion. This is a highly efficient means of stress reduction, with relatively low costs to train teachers in guiding simple meditation and priceless improvements in children's overall well-being.
Unfortunately, many fundamentalists believe that meditation is of the devil and so would object to having it taught in school. It would be wonderful if we could convince the naysayers that meditation is theologically neutral. One can be of any religious belief and none and still meditate.

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