Getting off the couch and eating more vegetables go a long way to improving your health, according to a new study.
Study participants who followed those two pieces of health advice adopted healthier habits than those who were encouraged to follow other advice, such as exercising more and eating less fat.
Researchers divided more than 200 people age 21 to 60 into four groups and gave them different types of health advice, asking them to work on two different activities from a list of four: exercise for 60 minutes a day, eat more fruits and vegetables, be less sedentary, and eat less fat.
The group told to be less sedentary in their free time and eat more fruits and vegetables increased the amount of fruits and veggies consumed from one serving per day to almost three. They also cut the amount of free time spent being sedentary by more than 90 minutes per day. That group saw the greatest overall health gains, according to researchers.
The group that was told to “get more exercise and eat less fat” tended to exercise more over time and also decreased the percentage of daily calories that came from fat from 11.4 to 9.1 percent. But the group did not lower their sedentary time significantly and barely picked up their consumption of fruits and vegetables.
The first group, the one told to be less sedentary and increase fruit and vegetable consumption, also adopted other healthy habits, such as exercising more and consuming less fat, without being asked. Adopting habits such as getting off the couch and eating more fruits and veggies had a “domino effect” in helping people to become healthier, the researchers said.
The study was conducted by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It was published May 28 in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.
The researchers also found that people are more likely to adopt healthier habits with support, such as using personal digital assistants to track progress, getting reminders from coaches, or earning small amounts of money for meeting goals. Natural supplements also contribute to good overall health, such as fish oil, which contains omega 3s that promote healthy cardiovascular and nervous systems, support joint mobility, and help maintain healthy skin and hair.
A total of 86 percent of the study participants said they would try to keep up the healthy habits adopted during the study.