An effective way to significantly improve diet and physical activity at the workplace, a new study has suggested, is an e-mail intervention program. This will help people move more, sit less, and make healthier food choices.
The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research study was a randomized controlled trial of the ALIVE (A Lifestyle Intervention Via E-mail) program conducted among 787 Kaiser Permanente Northern California employees at their worksites.
Through the ALIVE program, developed by NutritionQuest, weekly e-mails were sent to the 351 employees randomized to the intervention group; the 436 employees in the control group received only immediate e-mail feedback at the start of the intervention indicating whether or not their reported physical activity and diet met national guidelines.
The messages to the participants in the intervention group suggested small, practical, individually tailored goals, such as eating fruit for a snack three times a week, walking for 10 minutes a day at lunch time, or walking to the store instead of driving.
Researchers found that at the end of the 16-week trial, the participants in the intervention group were more physically active, eating more fruits and vegetables, and reducing their intake of saturated fats and trans fats, compared to the control group.
The results also showed that employees who were not regularly active before receiving the intervention increased their participation in moderate intensity physical activities by almost an hour a week and decreased the amount of time they spent in sedentary activities, like watching TV and videos, by about two hours a week.
The researchers found that these changes had a lasting effect four months after the intervention ended.
"The takeaway message here for people who want to improve their diet and physical activity, and for employers who want a healthier workforce, is that e-mail intervention programs are a very cost-effective way to get healthy," said study lead investigator Barbara Sternfeld, Ph.D., senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the study's lead author.
The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.