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Lifestyle coaching in primary care improves physical activity, dietary habits
Jan 22, 2024

Key takeaways:

Among intervention patients, 90% doubled, tripled or quadrupled their intake of whole plant foods.

Coaching also improved sleep, HbA1c, cholesterol levels and daily fiber consumption.

DENVER — Integrating lifestyle coaching in a primary care model was feasible and significantly improved several dietary measures and health outcomes, according to data presented at the Lifestyle Medicine Conference.

Prasanga Lokuge, MS, vice president of clinical strategy at VillageMD, and colleagues explained that although there is growing literature on the effectiveness of listyle interventions in preventing chronic conditions, “few models have successfully, sustainably, and at scale integrated this knowledge into the clinical setting.”

So, the researchers evaluated the impact and feasibility of a lifestyle intervention integrated into a clinical setting, where physicians referred patients to a life coach and received weekly virtual 1:1 coaching over 6 months and group sessions after 6 months. The lifestyle intervention aimed to increase consumption of whole plant foods, improve sleep behavior and stress management and increase physical activity.

The analysis included an intervention cohort of 10 patients who were prescribed a healthy lifestyle and accepted the coaching, as well as a comparison cohort of 10 patients who were prescribed but declined coaching.

Among the intervention cohort, Lokuge and colleagues found that after coaching:

90% of participants doubled, tripled or quadrupled their intake of whole plant foods;

100% reported more than 6 hours of sleep, up from 40% at baseline;

100% reported perceiving their level of health as equal to or greater than seven out of 10, up from 45% at baseline;

daily fiber consumption increased by 50%; and

erythrocyte sedimentation rate levels decreased by 56%.

Additionally, both the regularity and intensity of physical activity significantly improved, according to the researchers.

Patients in the intervention also lost an average of 2.65% of their baseline weight — compared with 0.26% in the comparison cohort — and had an average reduction in HbA1c of 4.8%.

Finally, the researchers noted that cholesterol levels improved as much as 40% in some patients, which helped to keep them off statins. Lokuge and colleagues concluded that lifestyle coaching should be used only for patients who need or request it, and the study shows that its implementation in clinical settings “is effective and is a feasible and effective way to integrate lifestyle interventions without disrupting the regular clinical workflow or adding to the workload