Adding in a few more reps at the gym is an easy enough way to up your fitness game, as is cutting out junk food to clean up your diet plan. But to really crush your weight loss goals, you have to change more than just your external behaviors. Enter mindfulness, your new favorite fitness tool. Turns out, mindful people are less likely to be obese and even have less belly fat, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Researchers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have been tracking a group of almost 400 adults for the past 40 or so years, since birth. In this study, they scored everyone's natural disposition on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), which basically measures how well you pay attention to the present moment and how open you are to awareness. They found that the more mindful someone was, the less belly fat they had. (Learn about the other 17 Powerful Benefits of Meditation and mindfulness.)
Research last year from the University of Missouri found that in just 10 weeks, women can lose weight by simply making more of an effort to listen to their internal hunger cues and drawing attention to the foods they're noshing on. But this new research shows mindfulness benefits your weight most when practiced over the course of an entire lifetime. Talk about #longtermgoals.
The idea behind why mindfulness is your waistline's BFF is pretty simple: Think about how your body feels after pigging out on nachos at happy hour—if you're actively engaged, you'll notice that bloated feeling and will probably consider skipping them in favor of lighter fare next time. And the same goes for exercise—your hot yoga class may be killer, but you notice how much clearer your body and brain feel by the time you hit savasana.
When you actively pay attention to the way your body feels, you're more likely to do the things that are good for it—it's as simple as that.