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Brief interventions can encourage healthy lifestyles

December 3, 2012

Although intervention techniques can vary, in a current study, Matt Martens, associate professor of counseling psychology in the College of Education, tested 10-minute questionnaires with feedback based on responses and 25-30 minute meeting times with physicians. Even after one month, those who participated found themselves engaging in more physical activity. The benefits of this strategy include the flexibility and ability for physicians to alter these suggestions to fit their patients, low-cost and low-time commitment and saving money in the long-run in prevention costs. Martens study has contributed to the One Health, One Medicine initiative. 

Story by MU News Bureau

The weight gain commonly known as the “Freshman 15” is a negative aspect of the college experience for many college freshmen who are independent for the first time, most making lifestyle decisions about eating and exercise. Researchers say it’s no surprise freshmen experience one of the largest weight gains in their lifetimes when they attend college. A new study from the University of Missouri has found that a brief intervention, sometimes as little as 30 minutes, can help put students back on the right track to a healthy lifestyle – a change that can impact the rest of their lives.

“What we found in our study was that getting personalized feedback about health issues is important,” said Matt Martens, associate professor of counseling psychology in the College of Education. “It may not matter how long or short that intervention is; what seems to be important is getting the feedback. These simple interventions can be used at a doctor’s office prior to an appointment, possibly while the individual is sitting in the waiting room. The idea behind these methods is to open the conversations, identifying the unhealthy lifestyle decisions and setting goals for the future.”

Brief interventions can be delivered in many forms. In the current study, participants were asked to complete a 10-minute questionnaire. They were then given a feedback sheet based on their responses, which they discussed with a clinician for approximately 25 to 30 minutes. After one month, those who received the intervention reported engaging in significantly more exercise compared to those who did not receive the intervention. More…