Relaxation ‘helps in maintaining weight’

Obese women have a better chance of maintaining a healthy weight if they incorporate a little relaxation into their lifestyle.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published: January 20, 2009 2:33 pm

Obese women have a better chance of maintaining a healthy weight if they incorporate a little relaxation into their lifestyle,says a new study.

Researchers at Otago University have found that non- dieting interventions to improve overweight and obese women’s health have a longer-lasting effect if they include relaxation training,the ‘Preventive Medicine’ journal reported.

The study’s lead author,Dr Caroline Horwath,said: “Stress and negative emotions can trigger women to overeat and consume high-fat and high-sugar foods.

“By learning and practicing relaxation techniques,like progressive muscle relaxation,abdominal breathing and visualisation,as part of a wider lifestyle change programme,women have effective tools to manage stress and emotions without resorting to unhealthy eating.”

The researchers have based their findings on analysis of a two-year follow-up of a ground-breaking research project into the effectiveness of non-dieting intervention programmes in improving lifestyle behaviours and reducing distress.

In the study,225 women with a body mass index of 28 or more were randomly assigned to one of three intervention programmes. All three 10-week-long programmes assisted women in moving their focus away from calorie counting and body weight,towards sustainable lifestyle changes that enhanced their well-being,regardless of weight loss.

According to Horwath,despite giving up dieting,women in all three interventions successfully prevented any weight gain over the two-year period,”which is a promising outcome for a group at high risk of weight gain over time”.

“However,the most striking result was in the non-dieting intervention that also included intensive training in techniques to elicit the body’s relaxation response. At the two-year mark,these women were the only ones to maintain the psychological and medical symptom improvements they showed at the end of the first year.

“This study is the first randomised trial to evaluate the effects of intensive training in relaxation techniques in lifestyle change programme for overweight women. The positive results are exciting,given the limited long-term success of traditional dieting approaches,” she said.

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