Overlooked Benefit of Healthy Lifestyle Programs is ‘Improved Quality-of-Life’


A healthy lifestyle has more value than just the numbers on a scale or a blood pressure reading.  An often-overlooked benefit of a healthy lifestyle is measured through an improved “health-related quality-of-life.”

Scientists are able to show that people who participate in community-based behavioral lifestyle intervention programs to improve their health not only helped them lose weight, increased their physical activity levels, and reduced their risk of diabetes and heart disease — but these programs also increased their health-related quality of life.

Healthy Lifestyle Programs Improve Quality of Life

In the August issue of the journal Quality of Life Research, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health published an analysis that showed an important, overlooked benefit of community-based behavioral lifestyle intervention programs designed to improve health.

Researchers demonstrated that these programs could be measured through improved “health-related quality of life,” in addition to weight loss, increased physical activity, and reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.

In a recent press release, lead author Yvonne L. Eaglehouse, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at Pitt Public Health, briefly elaborated on the findings of this new research.

“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 work-sites, simultaneously and significantly improved the quality of life of the participants.”

Impact of the Group Lifestyle Balance Program

Dr. Eaglehouse and a team of researchers investigated the impact of the Group Lifestyle Balance program, modified from the lifestyle intervention program used in the highly successful U.S. Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).

The Group Lifestyle Balance Program provides education, encouragement and the tools necessary to help people reach their healthy lifestyle goals. The program is designed for non–diabetic, overweight individuals age 18 and older who have pre–diabetes and/or the metabolic syndrome. These conditions are noted for increasing the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease — and the Group Lifestyle Balance program is designed for overweight adults who are at risk for developing diabetes.

Group Lifestyle Balance is a 22-session program, which is administered over a one-year period.  The primary aim of the program is to help people make lifestyle changes to improve their risk for diabetes and heart disease. The goals of the program are to help participants reduce their weight by at least seven percent and increase their moderate-intensity physical activity — like brisk walking — to 150 minutes per week.

A total of 223 participants were enrolled in this latest research to test the effectiveness of the Group Lifestyle Balance program at a work-site and three community centers in the Pittsburgh area. The participants averaged 58 years of age and had pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome, or both.

Before beginning the program, each participant ranked his or her current health on a scale from 0 “worst imaginable health state” to 100 “best imaginable health state.” The U.S. average is 79.2, whereas the participants averaged 71.5 at baseline.

Research Results

After completing the yearlong Group Lifestyle Balance program, the research participants increased their average health-related quality-of-life score to 78.2. When looking at only those with baseline health-related quality of life below the U.S. average, there was an even greater degree of improvement, from 61.8 at baseline, to 74 at the end of the program.

Senior author Andrea Kriska, Ph.D., professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, shared in the excitement with respect to the health improvement for the research participants.

“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.”

Improved Lives for Millions

The University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health, founded in 1948, is now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States.  Scientists and researchers from the school conduct research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Public Health department is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems.

This new research titled, “Impact of a community-based lifestyle intervention program on health-related quality of life,” is published in the August issue of the journal Quality of Life Research, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: https://georgezapo.com.