Keeping stress to a minimum is an important part of a health lifestyle. Stress–whether physical or emotional–has been shown in research to be a big risk factor for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. But between work, family, and social pressures, it can be hard to keep stress in check. According to a new study presented to the Endocrine Society, lowering stress may not only be easier than you think, it may also have huge benefits for your body–not just your mind.
The study looked at about 90 overweight and obese women who were all around the same age. Because of their weight, they all had a high risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They were divided into two groups, and did either 8 weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or standard health education. MBSR is a technique that was created at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It involves deep breathing and being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging them. All of the subjects had their fasting blood glucose levels checked throughout the study.
By the end of 16 weeks, all of the subjects reported that they were less depressed, getting better sleep, and feeling better overall. However, subjects in the MBSR group reported much less stress than the control group, and also lowered their fasting blood glucose levels. This was surprising, given that their body weight, insulin levels, A1C levels, and blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) stayed the same.
This study shows that taking time every day to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and sensations can make a big difference in your overall well-being. For overweight and obese women, it may be especially important for avoiding type 2 diabetes and heart disease.