Researchers have found out that there is a close link between bad lifestyle habits, as it’s very unlikely that you’ll have one without at least another one.
And that’s precisely what a recent study conducted at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found out: people who spend too much time in front of the TV (or of the computer screen) are likely to dig more into a bag of cookies, chips or other unhealthy snacks.
But, if you’re able to change one bad lifestyle habit, this will have a domino effect on the others. Knock down your sedentary leisure time and you'll reduce junk food and saturated fats because you're no longer glued to the TV and noshing. It's a two-for-one benefit because the behaviors are closely related.
The team of researchers at the Chicago institution went one step further and were able to identify that the most effective way to get back on the right track, without getting overwhelmed, is to follow just two golden rules:
1) spend less time in front of the TV or of the computer screen; and
2) eat more fruits and veggies.
Anyone can do those changes in their life and also maintain them, for better health.
"Americans have all these unhealthy behaviors that put them at high risk for heart disease and cancer, but it is hard for them and their doctors to know where to begin to change those unhealthy habits," said Bonnie Spring, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern Medicine, and lead author of the study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. "This approach simplifies it."
In order to reach such conclusions Spring and her team, picked 204 individuals, between the ages of 21 and 60 years old. All of them maintained the following bad habits: eating too much saturated fat, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, spending too much sedentary leisure time, and not getting enough physical activity.
The participants were then randomly assigned with one of the four treatments designed by the doctors:
1) increase fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity,
2) decrease fat and sedentary leisure,
3) decrease fat and increase physical activity, and
4) increase fruit/vegetable intake and decrease sedentary leisure.
During the three weeks of treatment, patients entered their daily data into a personal digital assistant and uploaded it to a coach who communicated as needed by telephone or email.
Participants could earn $175 for meeting goals during the three-week treatment phase. But when that phase was completed, patients no longer had to maintain the lifestyle changes in order to be paid. They were simply asked to send data three days a month for six months and received $30 to $80 per month.
"We said we hope you'll continue to keep up these healthy changes, but you no longer have to keep them up to be compensated," Spring said.
The results over the next six months amazed Spring. "We thought they'd do it while we were paying them, but the minute we stopped they'd go back to their bad habits," she said. "But they continued to maintain a large improvement in their health behaviors."
To give you some numbers, about 86% of participants said that once they made the change, they really tried to maintain it.
The better lifestyle boosted their confidence which in turn helped them realizing that they could do anything if they just set their minds to it
"We found people can make very large changes in a very short amount of time and maintain them pretty darn well," Spring said. "It's a lot more feasible than we thought."
The Iron You
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Northwestern University, via EurekaAlert!.