Women and men differ on adopting healthy behaviors

When it comes to exercising and quitting smoking, men may be closer than women to adopting these healthy behaviors as permanent habits, according to a new study of 554 low-income minorities.

Men surveyed for the study were more likely than women to say that they were exercising regularly and that they had quit smoking for more than six months, say Erin L. O'Hea, Ph.D., of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and colleagues. Their findings appear in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

Women, on the other hand, were more likely to say that they had no intentions of quitting smoking or and were only beginning to contemplate exercising regularly.

The researchers found no significant differences in men and women's readiness to decrease the amount of fat that they ate.

O'Hea and colleagues say their findings provide a much-needed glimpse of health behavior change within a low-income minority population, since much of the previous research on behavior change has studied middle- or upper-income predominantly white populations. Earlier studies of white populations, for instance, showed that women were further along than men in adopting lower-fat diets.

"These findings have practical implications for health care providers, which we hope will be used to assist both men and women with adopting healthier lifestyles," O'Hea says.

The researchers found that men were more likely than women to think there were fewer pros and cons to both smoking and exercising. Men were also more confident in their abilities to quit smoking and exercise, which could indicate that "men may be generally more confident about making personal behavior changes than females are," O'Hea says.


Contact: Erin O'Hea
Center for the Advancement of Health

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