Otago University logo A latest study has discovered that relaxation techniques aid in maintaining weight loss in obese or overweight women. This non-dieting technique is believed to have longer positive health and over-all well being effects. This study was conducted by the University of Otago.

This discovery is based on the two-year follow-up of a previous Otago research project of the efficiency of non-dieting approaches in enhancing lifestyle patterns and health, and bringing about a reduction in psychological stress. More than 200 women with Body Mass Index of 28 or higher were randomly placed in any one of the three intervention programmes. These programmes encouraged women to shift their attention from body weight and calorie counting to an enhanced lifestyle leading to an overall well being irrespective of weight loss.

The results had revealed that these subjects were able to prevent further weight gain over the two year follow-up period. This suggests a marked improvement in the group susceptible to weight gain over time. Study co-author, Dr. Caroline Horwath of the Department of Human Nutrition, adds that, “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.”

Dr. Horwath says negative emotions and stress can cause women to over-eat. She suggests practicing relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and abdominal breathing. These practices may aid women in managing their stress and emotions efficiently, which may prompt them to steer clear of unhealthy means of combating their emotions, like overeating. It is stated that these relaxation techniques were inspired from a Harvard Mind-Body Medical Institute programme.

The study investigators state that this is believed to be the first randomized trial conducted, which determines the outcome that an intensive training has in relaxation techniques in a lifestyle change programme, designed for overweight women. They say that a detailed analysis needs to be conducted in order to evaluate their study findings.

Their latest findings are published in the US journal Preventive Medicine.