Simple Goals to Get Active and Eat More Fruits and Vegetables work to improve Healthy Lifestyle

credit: National Cancer Institute unknown photographer - PD

(Best Syndication News) - Weight loss could be as simple as changing just two habits that will help improve a person’s overall health. Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that making two big changes in habits could lead to long-term results. The habits that the researchers wanted to change in the participants was to not spend so much time watching TV or on the computer and to eat more fruits and vegetables. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Just getting more active could slow a person from eating junk food and excessive amounts of saturated fats. The reasoning is that snacking often occurs when a person is watching TV or on the computer. This change in leisure activities ends up acting as a domino effect on the person's eating habits.

Lead author of the study, Bonnie Spring, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said that by offering two simple lifestyle changes, it could become more likely that the person can achieve the goal of better health.

Spring wanted to design a study that would test the idea of getting people to change their unhealthy habits. The study recruited 204 patients between 21 and 60 years of age that all had unhealthy habits.

The researchers randomly divided the participants into four different treatment groups. The first group was told to increase fruit and vegetable intake and increase physical activity. The second group was assigned the tasks of decreasing fat intake and reducing their sedentary leisure activities. The third group was told to decrease fat intake and to increase physical activity. The fourth group was instructed to eat more fruits and vegetables and decrease sedentary leisure activities.

For three weeks, the researchers had the participants report their daily accomplishments in a personal digital assistant. Every day, they would send the information to a coach that would talk with them if needed by telephone or by email.

There was an incentive of $175 if the participants met their goals during the first three weeks. After this time, the participants would be paid regardless if their assigned goals were met. The payments ranged between $30 and $80 per month for sending the requested information three days per month for the next six months.

"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 researchers were expecting the participants to slide back to their old habits by the end of the study. They were surprised to find that the participants continued their healthy behavior changes.

At the beginning of the study the participants averaged 1.2 servings of fruits and vegetables. Then it went up to 5.5 servings during the study and then at the end of the study 2.9 servings. Sedentary activities started at an average of 219.2 minutes but dropped down to 89.3 minutes during the study, and 125.7 minutes by the end of the study. Saturated fat intake averaged 12 percent of the daily calories at the start of the study, 9.4 percent during the study, and 9.9 percent at the end of the study.

Spring said that around 86 percent of the participants tried to maintain the change once they made it. Increasing the fruit and vegetable intake empowered the participants the most. Spring said they felt more confident from this change.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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