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Originally published August 8 2009

Workplace Email Intervention Program Helps People Sit Less and Eat Better

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A simple intervention program featuring regular email reminders appears successful in producing healthier diet and exercise habits, according to a study conducted by health insurance firm Kaiser Permanente and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The takeaway message here for people who want to improve their diet and physical activity, and for employers who want a healthier workforce, is that email intervention programs are a very cost-effective way to get healthy," said lead researcher Barbara Sternfeld. "A tailored email program includes all the things that behavioral scientists have said for years about changing behavior: small goals tailored for the individual, reinforcement, and tracking but delivered in a mass, cost-effective way."

Kaiser researchers conducted a 16-week trial of the A Lifestyle Intervention Via E-mail (ALIVE) program on 787 employees, 351 of them in the email intervention group and 436 in a control group. All participants took a short, online questionnaire at the beginning of the study and received immediate feedback on their diet and exercise habits.

Participants in the intervention group then set small health-improvement goals for themselves. Once per week, they received an email containing individualized suggestions on ways to get closer to that goal. All the suggestions were simple -- such as walking for 10 minutes each day during lunch, walking to the store, or eating three extra fruits per week -- and were tailored to be realistic for each person's life (such as whether they had kids or a busy schedule). Each email contained a link to a Web site where participants could get extra tips, learn more and track their progress.

In between weekly suggestions, participants also received reminder emails.

According a survey completed at the end of the study and another four months later, the people in the email intervention group had increased their exercise level and fruit and vegetable intake and decreased their saturated and trans fat intake significantly more than those in the control group.

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