Eating more fruits and vegetables and watching less television could cause a "domino effect" of healthy behavior, according to a new study from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Bonnie Spring, director of Behavioral Medicine at the Feinburg School, conducted the study. She said the study aimed to find how to change the four most common unheatlhy behaviors in adults: not eating enough fruits and vegetables, not getting enough physical activity, eating too much saturated fat and getting too much sedentary leisure or, in other words, watching too much television.
"The problem we wanted to address with the study was whether it was possible to simplify and make it easier to go about changing health behaviors," Spring said. "We assumed it was too much to try to change all four at once, so we wanted to know which two we could have [test subjects] change."
Spring said researchers believe these unhealthy behaviors come in bundles, so changing one could positively affect another. She said the study found one combination to be especially effective.
“A particularly good way to begin is to increase your fruits and vegetables and cut down your sedentary leisure. If you do that, you’ll also—without making added effort—get a reduction in your saturated fat intake,” Spring said.
Spring said she has two possible explanations for the study's results.
She said watching television and snacking is a common pairing, so watching less television could reduce the temptation to eat foods loaded with saturated fats.
She also says the study suggests eating more fruits and vegetables might increase a person's confidence to stick with other healthy changes.
Spring said increasing physical activity was the hardest change for subjects to make and maintain, even though it was the change most subjects said they wanted to make at the outset of the study.