Interventions to change health behaviors have had limited success to date at establishing enduring healthy lifestyle habits. Despite successfully increasing people’s knowledge and favorable intentions to adopt healthy behaviors, interventions typically induce only short-term behavior changes. Thus, most weight loss is temporary, and stepped-up exercise regimens soon fade. Few health behavior change interventions have been successful in the longer term. In this article, we unpack the behavioral science of health-habit interventions. We outline habit-forming approaches to promote the repetition of healthy behaviors, along with habit-breaking approaches to disrupt unhealthy patterns. We show that this two-pronged approach—breaking existing unhealthy habits while simultaneously promoting and establishing healthful ones—is best for long-term beneficial results. Through specific examples, we identify multiple intervention components for health policymakers to use as a framework to bring about lasting behavioral public health benefits.


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pp. 71-83
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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