Stealth Health: Get Healthy Without Really Trying
Living healthier doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming, experts say
Do a Little, Get a Lot continued...
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."
Tripping Over Baby Steps
Of course, not everyone is certain that baby steps can walk you all the way to good health. Marc Siegel, MD, a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine, says that while doing something is certainly better than doing nothing, making such small changes is like using a Band-aid to stop a hemorrhage.
"It's a small, gimmicky idea to target people with very unhealthy lifestyles, and for some it may be useful," says Siegel, author of False Alarm: the Truth about the Epidemic of Fear. But he fears that for most people, it's sending the wrong message.
"In some ways it's a resignation, an admission that things can't be changed -- and that's certainly not the long-term answer," Siegel tells WebMD.
Katz concedes that the Stealth Health approach may not be right for everybody.
"There is a trade-off because if you try to make the pursuit of health easier for people, you run the risk of leading them to believe they don't need to do very much -- and that would be the wrong message," he says.
At the same time, Katz believes that for those who find making health changes a daunting task, Stealth Health techniques can make a difference.
"If you want the really big gains, there has to be some pain," says Katz. "But there is a lot to be said for the idea that you can make some gains with little or no pain, and that's infinitely better than no gains."