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Reminders Help People Make Healthier Choices

Image: Reminders Help People Make Healthier Choices
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By    |   Friday, 13 Oct 2017 12:27 PM

Even with the best of intentions, many of us make unhealthy choices throughout the day. The stress of everyday life sometimes spurs us to choose fast food instead of a homecooked meal, and we may take the elevator instead of the stairs because it's more convenient.

But what if we saw reminders throughout our day that urged us to make healthy choices? Would they make a difference?

Knowing that even small amounts of physical activity can have important health benefits, researchers from San Diego State University set out to answer the question of whether a simple sign could encourage airport visitors to take the stairs rather than the escalator.

For 10 non-consecutive days, researchers posted one of five signs at the bottom of a set of stairs and escalators ascending to a sky bridge into San Diego International Airport's Terminal 1. The signs read:

-"Please reserve the escalator for those who need it."

-"Don't lose time, lose weight. Use the Stairs."

-"Don't waste Time, trim your Waistline. Use the Stairs."

-"You'll get more stares if you use the stairs."

-"If you want to feel younger, act younger. Step it up! Use the stairs."

On alternating days, they posted no signs at all. The researchers counted how many people took the stairs versus the escalator on the sign days and no-sign days. At the top of stairs, they also interviewed people about their health history and physical activity levels.

When one of the signs was present, about twice as many people took the stairs compared to a no-sign day. The most important finding: The prompts appeared to nudge both people who regularly exercised and those who never exercised.

"We saw the effect even when people were carrying luggage, even when they were in a rush," said the study's first author, John Bellettiere. "It's the first time this kind of effect has been shown at an airport."

Encouraging even small amounts of exercise is important, he said, because its effects multiply throughout the day. For instance, if they take the stairs early in the day, they may make similar healthy choices later in the day. In addition, seeing others taking the stairs makes them more likely to do so, creating a ripple effect.

"These nudges are small environmental changes that can really help boost physical activity in the population," Bellettiere said.

The study was published in the Journal of Primary Prevention.

Other studies are also finding that small amounts of physical activity can make big improvements in health. A new study published in PLOS ONE found that seniors who add only 48 minutes of moderate physical activity a week improve their overall physical capabilities and decrease their risk of disability.

Another recent study found that only one hour of regular exercise a week can help prevent depression. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that even small amounts of exercise, regardless of intensity, can protect against depression. Benefits were accrued regardless of age or gender.

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Even with the best of intentions, many of us make unhealthy choices throughout the day. The stress of everyday life sometimes spurs us to choose fast food instead of a homecooked meal, and we may take the elevator instead of the stairs because it's more convenient.But what...
reminders, people, healthy, choices, encourage
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2017-27-13
Friday, 13 Oct 2017 12:27 PM
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