Meditation has come a long way: The practice once associated with solitary yogis is now embraced by public figures and everyday people who swear by it’s impact on their work focus, fitness, and overall lives. And now, a growing body of evidence suggests meditation does more than just calm your mind — it boosts your physical health, too. “I think we can now say with certainty if you want to optimize your health, performance, and enjoyment of the world, the three things that emerge are diet, exercise, and meditation,” says Charles Raison, a psychiatry professor and mind-body medicine researcher at the University of Arizona.
That’s because just a few minutes of meditation — whether it’s mindful breathing exercises, yoga, or even just walking — can tame the inflammation at the heart of so many physical maladies. “These lifestyle interventions such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, are all being used to alter people’s lifestyle and reduce the risk factors that lead to disease,” says Michael Irwin, a psychiatry professor at UCLA. “Once you have a disease it’s more difficult to treat that disease, and its better for there to be early prevention approaches.” Here are five science-backed health benefits that make the case for the most challenging — and rewarding — form of stillness for your body.