People who live in the present are less likely to have belly fat and to become obese, according to a US study.
Previous studies have shown that knowing your body leads to real physical benefits ranging from a reduction in stress to protection for the heart.
A team of researchers at Brown University Public School of Health in the US discovered that a low level of attention given to the present has an impact on the body, particularly fat stored around the waist.
The concept of mindfulness has been attracting an increasing amount of interest over the past 20 year: it is a state of mind which results from fully experiencing the present moment, without making any judgements.
The team worked with 394 volunteers, men and women with an average age of 50, all of whom participated in the New England Family Study and had been followed since early childhood.
In order to evaluate their working hypothesis, the researchers used a Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) questionnaire and observed various parameters such as body fat and weight.
Their findings, which were published in the 19 October edition of the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, showed that the participants with a low level of mindfulness were 34% more likely to be obese than those with more attention to their current feelings and thoughts.
What is more, the volunteers who were less sensitive to this state of mind had an average of 0.454 kg (editor's note: 1 lb.) more fat around the waist compared to the other participants.
Erick Loucks, one of the authors of the study, commented that "The vast majority of these people are not meditating". He said that it was simply a state of mind focused on the present and an awareness of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
The researchers concluded that people who are capable of greater mindfulness, for whatever reason, are more aware of their body, their emotions and moods in the present and therefore, for example, would have fewer cravings and be more receptive to the feelings created by exercise.
However, Erick Loucks said that the effect is "small to medium".
Loucks says he has meditated daily for 20 years and teaches mindfulness at Brown University.