Mondays are good days to start thinking healthy

January 05, 2007|By Lindy Washburn | Lindy Washburn,McClatchy-Tribune

It's a simple notion.

The workweek ends with TGIF on Fridays, but it should begin with AHBL - "All Health Breaks Loose" - on Mondays.

Public health advocates want to brand Monday the day for healthy lifestyle changes across America. The campaign was recently launched by Columbia University's School of Public Health.

And because Jan. 1 fell on a Monday this year, what better day to start thinking healthy?

Just as Friday's water cooler talk is "Whatcha doin' this weekend?," Monday's should be "Whatcha doin' for your health?"

Answers could include taking a walk, substituting an apple for a candy bar or giving up smoking.

Will this be the week to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day? To forgo a day of meat? To take the stairs instead of the elevator?

"Monday becomes the trigger date," said Audrey Cross, a professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and director of the Healthy Monday campaign.

"It's a natural day for people to start thinking about their week and what's on their agenda," Cross said. "We want health to be one of the starting points as you plan your week."

In a nation where billions of dollars are spent on cures for disease and pennies on prevention, public health officials hope to harness the marketing power of major businesses to make Monday the day Americans clean up their act.

Major health associations, such as local chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society and the YMCA have mobilized to designate Monday as the day to focus on health.

Commercial sponsors include Jenny Craig weight loss centers, Chartwells campus food suppliers and FreshDirect, a New York food delivery service. On a commercial level, Monday is intended to become the focal point for selling gym memberships, diet programs, health food and health and wellness programs.

"We've met with dozens of companies," Cross said, and she hopes to enlist more as the campaign grows.

Monday is a good time to think about health because it's also been the day of the week when the most goes wrong health-wise. More heart attacks, strokes and accidents occur Mondays than any other day of the week, according to studies. Hospitals and first-responders traditionally increase their staffs on Mondays to accommodate the increase in activity.

There's a variety of speculation as to the reasons: overeating and drinking on the weekend, insufficient rest, the stress of returning to work. All may play a role.

The irony is that while research has added to the understanding of such preventable causes of death as AIDS, obesity, heart disease and some cancers, their incidence is still increasing. Progress in treatment has not been matched by success at modifying disease-causing behaviors.

Recognizing that true behavioral change requires several starts and stops, public health experts seized upon Monday's most obvious feature: It comes again.

"The true genius is that Monday recurs," Cross said.

By adding a compliance date, it moves people beyond thinking about a problem and contemplating action to actually changing their habits.

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