#5 of 10 Good Reasons to Meditate (according to science): Health
#5 More youthful and healthy body & brain
There is a large and growing body of research that supports the idea that meditation helps create a healthier body. Whether it is inflammation, oxidative stress, or insulin resistance, time and again, meditation has been shown to improve measures of health in the meditator group as compared to the non-meditators. And whether it is hypertension, lower back pain, kidney pain, asthma, fibromyalgia, skin conditions, and the list goes on, meditation has been shown to improve people's physical condition. Books have been written on the subject so you can peruse the links above if you are interested in the specifics or just Google your particular health condition and the word meditation and you're likely to see a study or two pop up.
So it makes us healthier, but what about aging? Though the data is very preliminary, it also appears to slow aging in older adults as well. Two interesting studies to mention here:
In a study conducted by Harvard Medical School scientists, researchers reported that "those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress." Brain scans of the meditator group showed an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus (which is intimately involved in learning and memory) and less gray matter in the amygdala (the flight or flight, emotional valance center of the brain). A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes. Unfortunately, the data on the physical changes in the brains of meditators is still scanty. And this particular study had several methodological issues that pollute the findings. However, there is much research into this area so hopefully we will have more data soon.
There have also been a number of studies related to the so-called "attentional blink." Without going into the details of the study, researchers in Germany looked at whether meditation could decrease the worsening in performance on this measure as we age. They found that meditators reversed the usual increase in the small but measurable gaps in awareness that typically occur as we age.
So whether we are talking about the health or or age of human tissues and cells, while not a panacea, it appears the meditation is able to help across many dimensions.