Little Changes in Diet, Activity Add Up to Big Changes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I’ve always heard that little changes in your lifestyle choices can make a difference. We’re always encouraged to pick a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cake for dessert. The same goes for sweet potatoes over white potatoes. But can other small changes make a big difference?

    It turns out they can. Take driving, for instance. A new study out of the University of Illinois, Urbana found that driving one less hour each day would result in a drop of 0.21 points in the Body Mass Index of United States residents after six years.

    In this study, researchers looked at annual BMI data that had been collected from 1984 through 2010 in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. In addition, they reviewed the miles travelled by vehicle as well as data bout licensed drivers from 1970 through 2009 that was collected by the Federal Highway Administration. They also analyzed the average daily caloric intake data from adults that were collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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    Their statistical analysis found that reducing the daily travel in automobiles by one mile per driver would result in a reduction of 0.21 after a six-year period. Furthermore, lowering the number of calories consumed by 100 daily would lower the BMI by 0.16 over three years.

    “Making small changes in travel or diet choices may lead to comparable obesity interventions, implying that travel-based interventions may be as effective as dietary interventions,” the researchers wrote in the study’s summary for the journal Preventive Medicine.

    "Obesity isn't a one-dimensional issue. There are changes that we can make as individuals that will affect us all at the national level," study senior author Sheldon Jacobson, director of the simulation and optimization lab in the computer science department at the University of Illinois said in a story reported on MedlinePlus. "There is a more direct reduction in BMI from consuming less food, but both of these are very significant changes on a national level. For every drop of 0.1 or 0.2, we start to see more and more people being healthy. And, we're potentially talking about billions of dollars of saving.”

    So what other easy ways can you add more physical activity to your daily routine? The Joslin Diabetes Center recommends the following:

    • Disembark from the bus one stop earlier.
    • Walk to the store.
    • Park at the farthest end of the parking lot when going shopping.
    • Walk the dog.
    • Walk with your children.
    • Go into the restaurant instead of using the drive-up window.
    • Move around after 30 minutes of being seated.
    • Do your own yardwork.
    • Take a walk during lunch or break time.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
    • Stand up and move around while talking on the telephone.
    • Deliver a message in person instead of sending an email or making a phone call.

    So what other small ways can you drop 100 calories? Fitness Magazine had some good suggestions:

    • Use skim milk instead of coffee creamer in the morning coffee.
    • Consume a bowl of high-fiber cereal, which will help you remain fuller longer.
    • Opt for a yeast doughnut instead of a cake donut, which is denser.
    • Use barbecue sauce instead of honey mustard on a chicken sandwich.
    • Don’t put crackers and shredded cheese on chili.
    • Opt for thin-crust pizza instead of pan pizza when ordering a medium pepperoni pizza.
    • Substitute half of the ground beef for the same amount of cooked brown rice when making meatballs.
    • When making tuna salad, opt for one tablespoon of mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese as the dressing.
    • If you’re ordering an ice cream cone, choose the sugar cone instead of the waffle cone.
    • Replace half the butter that’s called for in cake, muffin and brownie recipes with the equivalent of applesauce or mashed bananas.
    • Eat angel food cake that’s drizzled with chocolate syrup in place of three cookies.

    So while you’re thinking of making big changes as New Year’s resolutions, you can also incorporate these little changes. All together, they can make a big difference in your health!

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    Behzad, B., King. D. M., & Jacobson, S. H. (2012). Quantifying the association between obesity, automobile travel and caloric intake. Preventive Medicine.

    Daly, M. (nd). The no-hunger way to cut 100s of calories. Fitness Magazine.

    Joslin Diabetes Center. (nd). Tips for increasing physical activity.

    MedlinePlus. (2012). Your new weight-loss resolution: drive less.

Published On: December 28, 2012