Shifting to a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about getting the right kind of diet and the right amount of exercise. Researchers now say that it’s about getting both simultaneously.

TIME reports that although incremental changes may help becoming healthier inside and out, they won’t be as effective unless they’re done with the right timing. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine worked with 200 participants aged 45 and above who mostly had inactive lifestyles.

The participants were split into four groups: the first group was instructed to make diet and fitness changes simultaneously; the second group was asked to make diet changes, to be followed by exercise changes after four months; the third group was asked to focus on exercise, to be followed by a change in diet four months later; and the last group was not instructed to make diet or fitness changes at all.

The participants were asked to achieve 150 minutes of exercise and to eat five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables a week. They also had to keep their saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent.

At the end of the experiment, only the group that made food and fitness changes simultaneously was able to reach the proper balance between diet and exercise after a year.

The study suggests that while changing the kind and amount of food consumed would be the easiest to start with, supplementing that with an increase in physical activity may help overcome certain psychological barriers and maintain both healthy habits for a longer period of time.

(Photo by JBLM MWR via Flickr Creative Commons)

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