Two (Often Overlooked) Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life

Healthy lifestyle choices can improve your quality of life by 10%, study finds.

Posted Jul 26, 2016

Source: ImageTeam/Shutterstock

All of us would love to improve our quality of life. Unfortunately, factors beyond the locus of your control can make quality-of-life improvements seem overwhelming or futile. If you're looking for no-nonsense ways to improve your quality of life, I have good news.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have found that making healthier lifestyle choices—such as being more physically active and losing a few pounds—increases quality of life ratings by an average of nearly 10 percent.

Prior to this study, the Pitt researchers were curious to see how participation in a community-based program designed to help people increase physical activity levels, lose weight, and reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease also increased health-related quality of life (HRQoL) ratings. 

The new study, “Impact of a Community-Based Lifestyle Intervention Program on Health-Related Quality of Life,” was published today in the August 2016 issue of the journal Quality of Life Research.

How would you rate your “health-related quality of life”? According to the new study by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health—on a scale from 0 (worst imaginable health state) to 100 (best imaginable health state)—the U.S. average rating is 79.2.

In a statement, lead author Yvonne L. Eaglehouse, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at Pitt Public Health, said,

"These community-based lifestyle intervention programs have additional valuable benefits, beyond the improvement of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Our study demonstrates that these programs, delivered in diverse community settings such as senior centers and worksites, simultaneously and significantly improved the quality of life of the participants."

As would be expected, the presence of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (or the conditions themselves) tend to lower quality of life. Although community-based lifestyle intervention programs have been proven to reduce risk factors and the prevalence of these diseases, until now, HRQoL hasn’t been thoroughly explored by researchers in this context. 

What Is the Group Lifestyle Balance Program?

The Group Lifestyle Balance program is a 22-session program administered over a twelve-month period. The program helps individuals make lifestyle changes that reduce their risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

The goal of the Group Lifestyle Balance program is simply to help participants reduce their weight by 7 percent and increase moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) to 150 minutes per week.

After participants had achieved their weight loss and weekly physical activity goals, HRQoL scores were adjusted based on someone's degree of success. Across the board, participants who met the program goals increased their health-related quality-of-life score by almost 10 percent compared to those participants who didn’t achieve either program goal.

Conclusion: Exercising More and Losing a Few Pounds Improves Quality of Life

In a statement, Andrea Kriska, Ph.D., senior author and professor in the Pitt Public Health's Department of Epidemiology, concluded,

"It is exciting that we were able to document an improvement in health-related quality of life in addition to improvement in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This important benefit was most evident in those who started the intervention program having a relatively lower quality of life—in other words, those who needed to improve the most."

Hopefully, these findings will inspire you to make moderate efforts to exercise more and maintain a healthy body weight to achieve the added bonus of improving your quality of life.

© 2016 Christopher Bergland. All rights reserved.

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