If you’re looking to augment your abdominal exercise routine with something that isn’t too intense but still effective, try meditation. It may seem counter-intuitive as you’ll basically be sitting still, but according to a feature on Very Well, meditation or mindfulness can reduce belly fat by reducing stress.

Chronic stress is one cause of weight gain, specifically fat build-up in your belly and around your waist. Cortisol, a hormone produced during times of pressure, makes your body “think you’ve used calories to deal with your stress, even though you haven’t,” says University of Maryland assistant professor Pamela Peeke, MD on WebMD. Due to this, you get cravings and your system pushes you to eat even when you don’t need to.

To see the effect of mindfulness on stress and fat reduction, a research team from the University of California San Francisco launched a study, which included 47 overweight or obese women, half of whom were given classes on meditation techniques. Aside from lessons on overall self-acceptance and a positive mental shift, these guided sessions included topics on how to be mindful of sensations such as hunger and cravings. Participants were also taught ways on how to pinpoint emotional triggers that can cause overeating.

The results showed that compared the control group, those who attended meditation classes managed to lessen binge eating and had lower cortisol levels. Belly fat was also reduced among those who practiced mindful eating, whether or not their body weight changed.

Experts recommend adding meditation to your regular workout. Lower stress levels means you won't be binge eating, “which could in turn lead to a healthier distribution of fat from eating better and relaxing more.”

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