ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Soybean Chemicals May Reduce Effects of Menopause
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
CANCER
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
CAREGIVING
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
Hispanic Children More Likely to Have Hearing Loss
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Secondhand Smoke Quickly Affects Blood Vessels
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Holistic Dentistry-My View
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
DIET, NUTRITION
Low Vitamin A, C Intake Tied to Asthma Risk
Eating in America Still Unhealthy
Pesticides on Produce Tied to ADHD in Children
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Pollution Raises Risk of Heart Disease, Death
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
City Kids Find the Breathin' Is Easier Elsewhere
EYE CARE, VISION
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
FITNESS
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
GENERAL HEALTH
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
Autumn Chores Often Hazardous
Parents Influence Sex Decisions, Hispanic Teens Say
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
More Calcium And Dairy Products in Childhood Could Mean Longer Life
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Reminiscing Helps Build Emotional Strength
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
SENIORS
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Nighttime Urination Linked to Higher Death Rate Among Elderly
High-Impact Activity May Be Good for Old Bones
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Simple Carbs Pose Heart Risk for Women
Calcium Helps Ward Off Colon Cancer
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Add your Article

E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- E-mail messages suggesting small ways to eat more healthfully or boost physical activity can significantly improve health habits, a new study has found.

Participants in a worksite e-mail program walked more, ate more fruits and vegetables and consumed less saturated fats and trans fats than workers who didn't receive the e-mails, according to a report in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

People whose dietary habits and physical activity levels were below recommended levels at the start of the study realized the greatest improvements, the researchers reported.

"What this study really tells us is that this particular program is effective," said the lead investigator, Barbara Sternfeld, a senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente research division in Oakland, Calif. "It gets the behavior change that we're looking for."

What's more, the program appeared to have a lasting effect. "Our data show, at least four months later, the behaviors were still sticking," Sternfeld noted.

Susan Finn, president and chief executive of the American Council for Fitness & Nutrition in Washington, D.C., said she's not surprised that the e-mail program succeeded, "especially in a workplace setting where people have easy access to a computer plus the support of colleagues."

Research has shown that "people who have a support system in place are better able to maintain the behaviors that keep them working toward or maintaining a healthy weight," Finn said.

An estimated 33 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, 34 percent are obese, and 6 percent are extremely obese, according to the latest data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Despite a glut of information on the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise, fewer than half of the population are getting the minimum amount of recommended physical activity, fewer than 25 percent eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day, and about 60 percent consume too much saturated fat, the study authors noted.

In response, scientists are testing models of what they call "behavior change theory" aimed at motivating people to adopt healthy habits and stick with their lifestyle modifications. The e-mail program tested in the study is one such approach.

For the study, Kaiser partnered with NutritionQuest Inc., which developed the e-mail program, known as ALIVE! (A Lifestyle Intervention Via E-mail).

Participants in the study, 787 Kaiser employees, completed an electronic diet and physical activity assessment at the beginning. All respondents got instant feedback on how their health habits stacked up against national guidelines.

Of the group, 351 were randomly assigned to receive weekly e-mails and mid-week reminders with "small step goals" tailored to meet people's individual lifestyles and health goals. Participants were asked to work on one of three paths: increasing physical activity, increasing fruit and vegetable intake or decreasing fat and sugar consumption.

A mom on the physical activity path who didn't work out much and had children at home might have received an e-mail suggesting that she go to the playground with her kids two days that week and walk around the playground. A worker on the fruit and vegetable path who ate out frequently might have been asked to add vegetables to pizza and other carry-out dishes that week.

E-mail recipients and control-group members were surveyed again at the end of the four-month test period and again four months later.

After 16 weeks, the group that had gotten the e-mails showed significant improvements across all three paths. The most impressive gains were among those who, at the start, were not meeting recommended dietary and physical activity levels. Their participation in moderate physical activity, for example, increased by nearly an hour a week, compared with those who hadn't been e-mailed, and time spent on sedentary activities, such as watching TV, dropped by two hours a week.

Sternfeld said that she believes the e-mail program was successful because it was convenient for people and easy to follow. "People realized that, 'Oh, I can do this. I can actually do this particular behavior,' " she said.

Finn noted that "making small changes, letting them stick and then stepping it up as needed is the best way to modify eating behavior over the long run."

If your workplace doesn't offer health advice via e-mail, look around.

"All the major weight-loss programs have e-mail support -- which consumers must pay for, of course," Finn said. "Companies like Campbells and Kraft Foods, however, have free weight-loss tools on their Web sites and offer some interaction, such as message boards."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on improving health habits.



SOURCES: Barbara Sternfeld, Ph.D., senior research scientist, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; Susan Finn, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO, American Council for Fitness & Nutrition, Washington, D.C.; Kaiser Permanente, May 19, 2009, news release; National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; January 2009, Journal of Medical Internet Research; June 2009, American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Last Updated: May 20, 2009

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