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Healthy lifestyle through minimal tricks

Healthy lifestyle through minimal tricks

Lifestyle: Better tricks than rational appeals

Nutritionists and health experts repeatedly point out the advantages of a healthy lifestyle. Despite the numerous tips, hardly anyone can actually change their formerly unhealthy lifestyle into a healthy one. Behavioral researchers have found that cognitive judgment cannot change that much. For health change, a few small tricks are enough to outsmart the inner conflict.

“My doctor gave me good advice after the laboratory tests showed increased liver tests. But I couldn't stick to it, ”reports one patient. Most people do the same or something similar if they are to change fundamental things in life. The scientist Theresa Marteau from the British University of Cambridge and her team sum up in the scientific article published in "Science" that "a few small tricks are enough to change the way of life". In the course of a research project, they discovered that "good advice alone is not enough to make life healthier".

Nutritional programs usually bring little
The tricks are so simple, yet effective. The simplest rule is to make it as easy as possible for people to change. For example, it is sufficient to set up the salad bar instead of the meat stand within easy reach or to build the stairs not just behind the elevator, but in the immediate vicinity. According to the researchers, these simple “tricks” would lead to a change in life rather than health information or well-intentioned admonitions, as the behavioral researchers write in the journal.

Diet or nutrition programs are of little use. The reason for this is the way in which people meet cognitively on the conscious but also unconscious level, according to study author Marteau. Seldom do people make decisions at the meta level for factual reasons, but mostly out of habit, habit or minor occasions.

"Rational appeals do not help to lead the conflict between healthy lifestyle and laziness". Behavioral research has already proven this in several scientific papers. Although rational judgments would have to lead to success more quickly, "the habit prevails because it works without further considerations". The authors justify the "habitual person" because people do not always have to think to find their way into their own four walls.

External events change habits
It would be more effective if the path to the desired decision were simplified by external influences. In this way, new and healthier habits could replace old ones. The possibilities for influencing are “almost endless,” says Marteu. These range from a more attractive presentation of healthy products and their quickly accessible placement in the canteen or supermarket to the redesign of the architectural structure of office buildings, "which invites you to exercise more actively during breaks".

Narrow glasses tempt you to drink less
One study found that simply switching off the lifts or slowing down the elevator doors closed a lot more people using the stairs. Drinking narrow glasses also showed that the subjects drank less than with wide glasses with the same volume. If the salad bar was moved closer to the seats and the dessert area moved further back, more people would use the salad bar to eat healthy food.

In this way, the behavior can be controlled unconsciously towards a much healthier lifestyle. The sometimes arduous conflict between the desires and the meaningful would then not have to be waged. (sb)

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