Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Changing one bad habit helps

30 May 2012, 10:38

 Simply ejecting your rear from the couch means your hand will spend less time digging into a bag of chocolate chip cookies. That is the simple but profound finding of a new North-western Medicine study, which reports simply changing one bad habit has a domino effect on 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 behaviours are closely related.

The study also found the most effective way to rehab a delinquent lifestyle requires two key behaviour changes: cutting time spent in front of a TV or computer screen and eating more fruits and vegetables.

"Just making two lifestyle changes has a big overall effect and people don't get overwhelmed," said Bonnie Spring, a professor of preventive medicine at North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine, and lead author of the study published in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Americans have unhealthy behaviours

"People have all these unhealthy behaviours 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," Spring said. "This approach simplifies it."

With this simplified strategy, people are capable of making big lifestyle changes in a short period of time and maintaining them, according to the study.

Spring wanted to figure out the most effective way to spur people to change common bad health habits: eating too much saturated fat and not enough fruits and vegetables, spending too much sedentary leisure time and not getting enough physical activity.

She and colleagues randomly assigned 204 adult patients, ages 21 to 60 years old, with all those unhealthy habits into one of four treatments. The treatments were: increase fruit/vegetable intake and physical activity, decrease fat and sedentary leisure, decrease fat and increase physical activity, and increase fruit/vegetable intake and decrease sedentary leisure.

Keep up healthy changes

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 R1, 456 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 R249 to R665 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 behaviours."

Large changes in short time

From baseline to the end of treatment to the end of the six-month follow-up, the average servings of fruit/vegetables changed from 1.2 to 5.5 to 2.9; average minutes per day of sedentary leisure went from 219.2 to 89.3 to 125.7 and daily kilojoules from saturated fat from 12% to 9.4% to 9.9%.

About 86% of participants said once they made the change, they tried to maintain it. There was something about increasing fruits and vegetables that made them feel like they were capable of any of these changes," Spring said. "It really enhanced their confidence."

"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."

- EurekAlert

Tags health

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...