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Meditation may help teens eat healthy, exercise more

A team of US researchers has found that easy mediation lessons can help adolescents combat obesity by raising their awareness of healthy eating and exercising.

The findings showed that mindfulness-based eating awareness training encouraged teens to eat healthier and exercise more and marginalised their tendency to gain weight.

“This gives us a safe, inexpensive intervention that could be translated into a real-world program for overweight kids,” said Vernon A. Barnes from Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in the US.

“If you can make a practice of keeping the awareness with you at every meal, this could benefit you throughout your life,” Barnes added in a paper published in the International Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The study of 40 adolescents looked at the impact of mindfulness approaches on the diet, exercise and eating behaviour of ninth-grade adolescents, which continued 12-week sessions of mindfulness intervention. 

The majority of the adolescents were overweigh; most had bad eating habits and most were black.

Intervention started with easier techniques such as breathing awareness meditation, where students focus on the movement of their diaphragm as a way to learn to pay more attention to their bodies. 

The sessions also included researchers using chocolate to increase awareness of taste and taste satiety, explaining how emotions can trigger overeating as well as the benefit of mindful movement, including using pedometers and walking meditation.

Progress, including what they ate, how often they exercised and whether they continued to binge, was assessed at the end of the 12-week session and again three months later.

The findings suggest, adolescents in the intervention group ate better and exercised more.

Over six months, intervention participants went from 2.9 to 3.6 to 4.3 days of activity each week vigorous enough to make them breathe hard and/or sweat. 

The results suggested that intervention group were consuming a healthier diet – lower fat and calories and also reported a decrease in perceived hunger.

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