A change is as good as a rest, right? Well, this past January, ZOE set out to investigate whether this age-old adage holds water.
We wanted to know whether making small, achievable changes could translate into measurable improvements in your mood, energy, sleep, and hunger levels.
Today, we’ve got some preliminary results to share with you. But first, a quick recap.
What’s the ZOE Habit Tracker?
We asked ZOE Health Study contributors to sign up for our new Habit Tracker. Then, each contributor chose one of the following habits to adopt every day:
eating during a 12-hour window
deep breathing for 5 minutes
eating more plants
drinking less alcohol
going to bed 30 minutes earlier
standing up and stretching for 5 minutes every hour
getting 20 minutes of physical activity every day
Each contributor could choose how long they did this for, and most committed to 6 weeks.
Every day, they logged how energetic and hungry they felt, along with their general mood and how well they had slept.
We chose “micro” habits like these because making big changes is tough, and people sometimes struggle to stick to them.
We’re more likely to adopt new habits if they’re smaller and more manageable.
And once you’ve stuck with a new habit for long enough, it becomes automatic. So, hopefully, you’ll feel the benefits without having to make any cognitive effort.
What we’ve found so far
Although we’ve got more number-crunching to do, we wanted to share some interesting preliminary insights.
We recently analyzed data from around 5,100 contributors who chose to stick to their new habit for 6 weeks and logged consistently over that time.
This is what we found: People who stuck to either the 20 minutes of daily activity, daily breathing exercises, going to bed 30 minutes earlier, or only eating within a 12-hour window all reported:
higher energy levels
improved sleep quality
This is compared with reports from people who chose these habits but didn’t stick to them so consistently.
Contributors who adapted to a 12-hour eating window also reported feeling less hungry than those who didn’t stick to this habit.
This result lines up with other other research into intermittent fasting and our findings from The Big IF study.
And finally, people who stood up and stretched every hour reported better sleep quality than those who didn’t follow this new micro habit so successfully.
Previous studies had also noted links between decreased sedentary time and improved sleep.
So, it seems like some of these micro habits might make a real difference to people.
Many of our contributors are continuing with their new habits, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the improvements last in the long run.
And a big thank you to everyone who’s taken part. Without you, we couldn’t get these intriguing and valuable insights.
Associations between physical activity and sedentary behavior with sleep quality and quantity in young adults. Sleep Health. (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352721816301255
Higher amounts of sedentary time are associated with short sleep duration and poor sleep quality in postmenopausal women. Sleep. (2019). https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/42/7/zsz093/5473522
Short-term time-restricted feeding is safe and feasible in non-obese healthy midlife and older adults. GeroScience. (2020). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-020-00156-6