• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Could e-mail encourage healthy behavior?

May 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sorting through mail in your inbox is a daily chore many of us deal with, but what if one of those e-mails could actually help you eat better and exercise more? One well known health plan tested this theory out and initial research shows it can really help users live healthier lives. It takes a lot to run a huge doctor's office, Angelica Velasco's stressful job eats away at at her desire to make healthy choices.

"If I'm having a craving in the afternoon I go down to the vending machine and the options are very limited," said Velasco.

Like many employees with long hours, she feels off balance.

"Sticking to it is a challenge. When I go home I don't want to go to the gym. I want to relax," said Velasco.

Her employer, Kaiser Permanente, recognizes the challenges working people face. So their researchers set out to find out if a simple, daily e-mail reminder can help employees lead healthier lives.

"These give you just very small things to work on and then you can see the small results and build from there. I think that's were it's valuable," said Dr. Monica Tantraphol.

Family medicine expert Dr. Tantraphol shows us how users fill out an online questionnaire about their habits. Then employees receive customized tips on how to work healthier behaviors into their lives like adding a ten minute walk at lunch.

"When you're at home instead of driving to market you can walk to the market. It gives you a more tangible way to make these changes in your life," said Dr. Tantraphol.

After 16 weeks, people who got the tailored e-mails were more physically active, ate more fruits and veggies, and reduced their saturated and trans fat intake.

Researchers say an interactive program like this would be a great way for corporations to improve productivity, health and morale among their workers.

"I'm already on the computer and so it's something that is easy to use," said Velasco.

Dr. Tantraphol says the reason an e-mail system like this works is because it's just like having a work out buddy or a personal trainer. It makes people accountable. Kaiser Permanente plans to expand the number of people who get this e-mail. And researchers hope the idea will catch on to to other employers.

Report Typo |  Send Tip |  Get Alerts | Most Popular
Follow @abc7 on Twitter  |  Become a fan on Facebook


Load Comments