Though it is generally well-known that diet and exercise are the most fool-proof ways to stay healthy, many people looking to get healthy will start with either one or the other. Easing into a healthy lifestyle can be easier than jumping in all at once. However, a new study has shown that changing diet and exercise habits at the same time might be more effective than doing each separately.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have published their new findings in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Their study looked at "inactive" participants who were 45 or older and had "suboptimal" diets. After being divided and coached in different exercise and diet changes for one year, the group that changed both diet and exercise habits at the same time were most likely to meet the U.S. national guidelines for exercise and nutrition.
"It may be particularly useful to start both at the same time," said Abby King, lead author of the study and a professor of medicine at Stanford. "If you need to start with one, consider starting with physical activity first."
The study also showed that those who changed their diets first did not meet exercise goals as easily, while those who began exercising first were more likely to meet their nutritional goals.
"These health behaviors aren't things that we change over a six-week period and then our job is done," said King. "They're things that people grapple with their whole lives, so to develop 'touches' of advice and support in a cost-efficient way is becoming more and more important."