We've all heard the famous phrase "if you can imagine it, you can achieve it" researchers from the University of Melbourne have determined that may be true.

Having a positive "can do" attitude can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

The study which was conducted by Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, found individuals who believe their life can be changed by their own actions ate healthier food, exercised more, smoked less and avoided binge drinking. The study used data from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. 

Researchers analyzed the link between perceived control and the health investments from an economic point of view, rather than a psychological perspective. They used economic models to assess the numerous ways an individual's thoughts influence their health choices.

The study analyzed information regarding more than 7,000 participants' diet, exercise and personality. The results demonstrated men and women hold different views concerning the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Men were more likely to want physical results while women were more interested in the everyday enjoyment of leading a healthier lifestyle.

"Our research shows a direct link between the type of personality a person has and a healthy lifestyle," she said. "What works well for women may not work well for men."

Professor Cobb-Clarke hopes the research will display the need for more targeted policy responses. Policy-initiatives should include having healthy choices as a default, rather than the option. This may increase the convenience of healthy options for individuals. Additionally, she believes there should be more of a focus on gender-specific policy initiatives.

"Gender specific policy initiatives which respond to these objectives may be particularly helpful in promoting healthy lifestyles," Professor Cobb-Clarke said.

Professor Cobb-Clark hopes the study would help inform public health policies on ways to combat obesity.