Health. More fruits and vegetables, physical activity… these tips for changing our habits

Health. More fruits and vegetables, physical activity… these tips for changing our habits
Health. More fruits and vegetables, physical activity… these tips for changing our habits

Study after study, the figures are worrying. According to figures published in 2022, 34.5% of Europeans do not eat fruit and vegetables every day. The situation is even more alarming among young people aged 18 to 34: almost 70% of them eat less than 3.5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day while organizations such as Public Health France recommend five. Other studies suggest that at the same age, today’s young people consume four times less fruit and vegetables than their grandparents.

Faced with this disaffection, three European professional organizations in the sector* (France, Spain and Poland) came together to launch last Tuesday a campaign entitled “Good move” which will last three years and which will be available on social networks in order to encourage young people aged 18 to 34 to change their behavior regarding food, but also the sedentary lifestyle that affects them. In fact, four out of five young people would like to do a physical activity, but have difficulty taking action. How to change this?

Identify phases of behavior change

“There are several phases in behavior change,” explained Vicky Drapeau, doctor of kinesiology at the University of Laval in Quebec, during a round table organized for the launch of the campaign. First there is “contemplation”, a stage where the person does not feel concerned by a practice; then “preparation” when it manifests the intention to change; then “action” when this person regularly integrates a new habit; then “maintenance” when this practice has been integrated for more than six months; and finally “relapse” which is inherent to any change in behavior, even beneficial. The further we move towards action, the more the person needs tips to maintain the practice. » This is the aim of the campaign which has just been launched.

The doctor estimates that it takes “between 8 and 10 weeks” to change behavior. “It takes time and it is not linear, there are often relapses which often make it possible to find more realistic solutions,” she explains.

“Start small”

To make these changes, Vicky Drapeau encourages “starting small” like “eating one or two fruits or vegetables a day” or “eating frozen vegetables.” “Each portion eaten counts to reduce cardiovascular risks,” insists the Quebecer.

On the sport side, it’s the same: “We shouldn’t see physical activity as something very specific, but simply moving and not sitting still,” says David Thivel, Doctor in exercise physiology and human nutrition and health sciences and professor at the University of Clermont-Auvergne. The recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week. But if a sedentary person increases their activity time by 10 minutes compared to usual, that is already as much saved in terms of cardiovascular risks. » We especially spend “too much time sitting”, he concludes.

Pleasure and familiarity

To change your eating behavior, there’s nothing like focusing on pleasure. “We don’t tend to associate pleasure and health even though they are completely compatible,” emphasizes Sandrine Monnery-Patris, researcher at INRAE ​​in Dijon. Current research shows that pleasure can be a lever toward healthier, more moderate eating choices. » A dimension which should not be neglected in the long term: “If we want the change to work in the long term and avoid relapses, we need pleasure”, agrees Vicky Drapeau. The framework is also important to anchor a new practice: “It is advisable to sit together at the table and pay attention to what you have on the plate to listen to your body, and not eat in front of a screen like a machine,” adds Sandrine Monnery-Patris.

For the INRAE ​​researcher, everything is also a question of “learning”: “Everything we eat, we have learned. It takes between 8 and 10 exposures to get a baby to consume and enjoy a food. What becomes familiar becomes more and more appreciated. It’s the same for adults. »

*The campaign, co-financed by the European Union, was launched by Aprifel (Agency for Research and Information in Fruit and Vegetables) in France, Fruit Union (Association of Polish Fruit and Vegetable Distributors) and Ailimpo (Interprofessional Association lemon and grapefruit) in Spain.

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