Yoga and meditation offer health care savings— and you can do them at home
A new research study shows that a little yoga or meditation a day might just keep the doctor away. Stress-related health problems are responsible for up to 80% of visits to the doctor and account for the third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer. But as few as 3% of doctors actually talk to patients about how to reduce stress. Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response by strengthening your relaxation response and lowering stress hormones like cortisol. Yoga has been shown to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety. But the cost-effectiveness of these therapies has been less well demonstrated — until now.
Dr. James E. Stahl and his team of Harvard researchers studied a mind-body relaxation program offered through the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The 8- week program taught participants several different mind-body approaches, including meditation, yoga, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral skills, and positive psychology. The study volunteers participated in weekly sessions and practiced at home as well. The researchers found that people in the relaxation program used 43% fewer medical services than they did the previous year, saving on average $2,360 per person in emergency room visits alone. This means that such yoga and meditation programs could translate into health care savings of anywhere from $640 to as much as $25,500 per patient each year. “There are many ways to get to the well state — many gates to wellness, but not every gate is open to every person. One of the strengths of the program is that it draws upon many different tools that reinforce each other and allow many gates to be opened to a wide array of people,” says principal.
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