Old habits die hard. If you’re used to consuming too much saturated fat, avoiding fruits and vegetables, not exercising, and watching too much television, it would be next to impossible to change overnight. But who says you have to get rid of all these unhealthy habits at once? According to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, you only need to adopt two healthy habits to get the ball rolling.

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To prove this theory, researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine gathered 204 participants from ages 21 to 60—all of whom had the same unhealthy habits stated above—and divided them into four groups. Each group was asked to make two changes in their life.

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The first group had to eat more fruits and vegetables as well as exercise more regularly. The second group had to reduce their consumption of saturated fat and avoid sedentary activities. The third group decreased their fat intake and exercised more. The fourth group had to consume more fruits and vegetables and avoid sedentary activities. For three weeks, the participants recorded their progress on a personal digital assistant, which they sent to their coach with whom they communicated with when needed.

According to the results, the participants found it easier to address their other health issues when they only had two lifestyle changes to make. For example, those who were asked to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercise more were also able to consume less fat without even realizing it.

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However, not all lifestyle changes triggered a ripple effect. The study reported that the participants were not motivated to exercise more unless it was something that they were directly asked to do. Still, the study does have merit. If you can drop two unhealthy habits today, who knows what you’ll be capable of doing in the future?

(Photo by Family O'Abé via Flickr Creative Commons)

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