ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
Too Few Screened for Abdominal Aneurysm, Study Says
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
CANCER
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Red Meat No No No But Oily Fish Yes Yes Yes
Scams and Shams That Prey on Cancer Patients
CAREGIVING
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
U.S. Mental Health Spending Rises, But Many Still Left Out
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
COSMETIC
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Gum Disease May Reactivate AIDS Virus
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
DIABETES
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
The Best Diet? That Depends on You
Myrrh May Lower High Cholesterol
Coffee Beans May Be Newest Stress-Buster
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hypertension May Hit Black Males Earlier
Gas Cooking Might Up Your Cancer Risk
Accumulated Lead May Affect Older Women's Brains
EYE CARE, VISION
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Retinal Gene Is Linked to Childhood Blindness
FITNESS
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
Antioxidants Blunt Exercise Benefit, Study Shows
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
Retail Clinics Attracting Those Without Regular Doctors
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Chinese Red Yeast Rice May Prevent Heart Attack
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Fatty Fish May Cut Heart Failure Risk in Men
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
MENTAL HEALTH
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Childbirth Moms More Attuned to Babies' Cry
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
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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