A recent study by Northwestern Medicine revealed that changing one bad habit makes people more likely to improve other aspects of their lives as well. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found 204 adults between the ages of 21 and 60 who felt that they did not eat enough fruits and vegetables, spent too much time sedentary, didn?t exercise enough, and consumed too much saturated fat. The researchers then randomly assigned those people to one of four possible treatments. These treatments included...
- Decreased fat consumption and sedentary time.
- Increased fruit and vegetable consumption and increased physical activity.
- Increased fruit and vegetable consumption with decreased sedentary time.
- Decreased fat consumption with increased physical activity.
The treatments lasted for three weeks, and the participants could earn money for meeting goals during that period. They were then asked to report their progress over the next six months, but no longer needed to make progress in order to earn money. Bonnie Spring, lead author of the study, explained ?We thought they?d do it while we were paying them, but the minute we stopped they?d go back to their bad habits, but they continued to maintain a large improvement in their health behaviors.?
Approximately 86% of the participants explained that once they started making healthful changes, they wanted to maintain their progress. Fruit and vegetable consumption increased while saturated fat consumption decreased. Even sedentary leisure time was reduced.
Spring asserts, ?Just making two lifestyle changes has a big overall effect and people don?t get overwhelmed.?
So, which two lifestyle changes were most effective? According to the study?s press release, ?the most effective way to rehab a delinquent lifestyle requires two key behavior changes: cutting time spent in front of a TV or computer screen and eating more fruits and vegetables.? The fact that sedentary activity and the consumption of unhealthful foods are closely related can help people kick both bad habits at the same time. For more information, see:
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.