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By Fitness Experts

Friday, June 1, 2012.

If you're struggling to get going with your summer workout plan, new research from the US could provide just the incentive you need! Researchers have found that simply spending less time sitting on the sofa will almost certainly mean you eat less junk food. And boosting your intake of fruit and veg is also likely to help you achieve the perfect bikini body.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine studied 204 adults, aged 21 to 60 years, who led a generally unhealthy lifestyle. Participants were divided into four groups, with each group required to make certain lifestyle changes.

The first group were asked to boost their intake of fruit and vegetables and their levels of physical activity. The second group had to reduce the levels of fat in their diet and the amount of time they spent sitting down. The third group were required to decrease their fat intake and increase their exercise levels. And the final group were told to eat more fruit and vegetables and decrease their sedentary leisure time.

Participants were given a financial reward if they met their goals for the first three weeks, but were not compensated after that point. However, the researchers found that the majority of people (86 per cent) tried to maintain the changes once they had made them, even though they were no longer receiving any money. Although levels of fruit and veg consumption and physical activity dropped after the initial three-month reward period, they did not fall back down to the levels seen at the start of the study.

Limiting the amount of sofa time was found to have a particularly beneficial effect on participants, as it also seemed to have a knock-on effect on their dietary habits. Even if they were not trying to cut back on their intake of junk food and saturated fats, people who reduced their sedentary leisure time tended to eat less of these foods.

The researchers - whose findings are published in the Archives of Internal Medicine - also observed that the two most beneficial lifestyle changes were reducing the amount of time spent sitting down and eating more fruit and vegetables. Bonnie Spring, professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University, commented: "Just making two lifestyle changes has a big overall effect and people don't get overwhelmed. We found people can make very large changes in a very short space of time and maintain them pretty darn well. It's a lot more feasible than we thought."

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