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Make Small Changes to Form Healthier Habits

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Making small, healthy changes can have a domino effect on other health habits, leading to long-term change in your wellbeing, according to a new study from Northwestern University [Time.com].

Researchers recruited 204 adults who engaged in four unhealthy diet and activity-related behaviors, including consuming too much saturated fat, inadequate exercise, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and spending too much time being sedentary during leisure time. Participants were divided into four groups and assigned two lifestyle changes for three weeks to address their unhealthy habits.

The study found that focusing on two behaviors at a time, particularly increasing fruit and veggie intake and decreasing TV time, resulted in a healthier overall lifestyle. Cutting back on TV time helped decrease mindless eating, and eating more fruits and veggies helped decrease saturated fat intake. Researchers found that people only increased physical activity, however, when it was one of the healthy changes that they were assigned to focus on. In other words, eating more fruits and veggies, decreasing TV time, and eating less saturated fat didn’t have a domino effect toward increasing physical activity. At the end of the study, 86 percent of participants said that once they made lifestyle changes, they tried to keep them.

“Fad diets and trendy exercise programs fail because they expect individuals to make drastic lifestyle changes in a short period of time, and then expect them to sustain these changes long-term,” says Dr. Roy Sugarman, director of applied neuroscience at Core Performance. “A few behavioral tweaks at a time is key to building mastery with a habit. This not only builds confidence and leads to other healthy behaviors, but creates meaningful lifestyle changes.”

For ideas of small healthy changes you can make today, read Joe Kita’s blog “One Small Change.” The blog includes the author’s journey and tips for cutting back on caffeine, improving posture, sleeping more, and stretching.

Tags: Health, Leisure Time