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Stealth Health: Get Healthy Without Really Trying

Living healthier doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming, experts say
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Do a Little, Get a Lot

The notion that good health can come in small tidbits is not really new. Research showing that making small changes can add up to a big difference has been quietly accumulating for a while.

For example, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2004 found that adding just 30 minutes of walking per day was enough to prevent weight gain and encourage moderate weight loss.

And if 30 minutes is still too big a bite? Another study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that three brisk 10-minute walks per day were as effective as a daily 30-minute walk in decreasing risk factors for heart disease.

"Just the act of going from sedentary to moderately active gives you the greatest reduction in your risks," says Helene Glassberg, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Center at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

But it's not only in fitness where small changes can make a difference. The same principles apply at the kitchen table (and the office snack bar).

"Reducing fat intake, cutting down on sugar, eating a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar -- over time, these things can make a difference," says Grossman.

As long as the changes are moving you toward your goal -- be it weight loss, a reduction in cholesterol or blood pressure, or better blood sugar control -- you can get there by taking baby steps, she says.

Moreover, Grossman tells WebMD, making small changes can help give us the motivation to make bigger ones.

"A lot of bad eating habits are about not taking charge of your life, and that attitude is often reflected in other areas," says Grossman. On the other hand, she says, when you make small changes at the kitchen table, the rewards may show up in other areas of your life.

"It's the act of taking control that makes the difference in motivating you," says Grossman. "An inner confidence and power begins to develop that can be seen in other areas of life."

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Need some quick, fresh ideas? Ever wonder what's behind the latest food headlines? Check in with Elaine Magee, RD, MPH.

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