London: Meditation could be very useful at preventing winter ailments than popping vitamins or herbal remedies as "insurance policy" to stave off colds and flu, a new study has revealed. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, adults who meditated or did moderately intense exercise, such as a brisk walk, for eight weeks suffered fewer colds than those who did nothing, a daily reported.
Previous research has found that mindfulness meditation may improve mood, decrease stress, and boost immune function.
The 149 people in this new study were divided into three groups. One performed mindful meditation, a type of meditation that essentially involves focusing the mind on the present.
Another group jogged regularly for eight weeks while the third group did nothing.
The researchers then followed the health of the volunteers through the winter from September to May, although they didn't check whether or not people carried on exercising or meditating after the eight-week period.
The participants were observed for cold and flu symptoms such as a runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing, and sore throat. Nasal wash samples were collected and analysed three days after the symptoms began.
The study, found that meditators missed 76 per cent fewer days of work from September through to May than those who did nothing. Those who had exercised missed 48 per cent fewer days during this period.
In addition, mindful meditation can reduce the duration or severity of acute respiratory infections such by up to 50 per cent, and exercise by up to 40 per cent.
According to the website Scientific America, those who had exercised or meditated suffered for an average of five days; colds of participants in the control group lasted eight.
In addition, tests confirmed that the self-reported length of colds correlated with the level of antibodies in the body, which indicate the presence of a virus.
"Nothing has previously been shown to prevent acute respiratory infections," lead author Dr Bruce Barrett, a family medicine doctor and associate professor at the University said.
"A lot of previous information suggested that meditation and exercise might have prevention benefits, but no high-quality, randomised trial had been done.
"Flu shots are partially effective, but only work for three strains of flu each year. The apparent 40 to 50 per cent benefit of mindfulness training is a very important finding, as is the apparent 30 to 40 per cent benefit of exercise training. If this pans out in future research, the impact could be substantive indeed," he added. The study is published in the Annals of Family Medicine.