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How two small changes can improve employee health
Posted on Jul 19, 2012 | Written by Rosie Gonzalez | Comments (1)
A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that making two small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on overall health, which is good news for employers interested in improving employee health.
Researchers tested which combination of wellness programs maximized simultaneous healthy behavior change, focusing on nutrition and physical activity. Their results showed that getting healthy doesn’t have to require a complete overhaul of a person’s lifestyle; making little changes can, in fact, have a rippling effect on health.
To conduct the study, researchers recruited 204 adults, ages 21 to 60, with elevated saturated fat and low fruit and vegetable intake, high sedentary leisure time, and low physical activity.
They then randomized participants to one of four treatments: 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.
Participants received incentives to engage in their recommended wellness program for three weeks and used a personal digital assistant every day to record their data and send it to a coach who communicated as needed by phone or email.
The results: The increase fruits/vegetables and decrease sedentary leisure treatment improved more than the other three treatments. Specifically, this group’s daily fruit/vegetable consumption increased from 1.2 servings to 5.5 servings and decreased sedentary leisure time from 219.2 minutes to 89.3 minutes. Meanwhile, the traditional dieting approach (decrease fat and increase physical activity) improved less than the three other treatments.
Key takeaways for employee health:
- Participants who increased their fruit/vegetable intake also reduced their consumption of saturated fats, showing the waterfall effect that participating in a wellness program can have.
- Participants significantly reduced their sedentary behavior, which is critically important for better health. Research published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows the more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease. To improve employee health, it’s essential to encourage sitting less and getting more movement in the day—in addition to incorporating physical activity.
- This study depicts two behaviors (eating more fruits/vegetables and decreasing sedentary behavior) that were easier to change for participants; however, every person is different in terms of what behavior they are ready to change. To effectively engage participants in a wellness program, readiness to change remains an important factor to consider.
Have additional thoughts you’d like to share on this research? I encourage you to post your comments below.
Rosie is a nutrition and health science specialist. She has been working in the corporate wellness field for seven years. She brings more than 20 years of experience as a registered and licensed dietitian in the health industry, working in research with a focus on nutrition and cancer prevention, counseling individuals in the area of weight management.