In the Duke University study, they found that after six months, 26 obese women who used daily texting as part of the Shape Plan weight-loss intervention lost just over one kilogram while another 24 who followed traditional methods gained over one kilograms!
The daily text messages focused on tracking tailored behavioural goals (i.e., no sugary drinks or walk 10 000 steps per day) along with brief feedback and tips.
Every morning, participants got a text from an automated system that said, "Please text yesterday's # of steps you walked, # of sugary drinks, and if you ate fast food." Based on how they responded to the text, the automated system sent another text with personalised feedback and a tip.
"Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviours," said lead author Dori Steinberg, a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program.
According to Steinberg, text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods:
Unlike web-based diet and exercise diaries, data in a text message can be entered quickly on nearly all mobile phone platforms. This provides more portability, nearly real-time tracking and more accessibility for receiving tailored feedback
Previous studies show that long-term adherence to traditional monitoring is poor, possibly because they are time- and labour-intensive, require extensive numeracy and literacy skills, and can be perceived as burdensome
Text messaging has been conventionally limited to about 15-20 words per message, thus reducing the detail and cognitive load that is required for documenting diet and exercise behaviours
The key challenge in weight loss is helping people keep weight off for the long-term. So the next step is to see if texting can help people maintain their weight loss.
"Given the increasing utilisation of mobile devices, text messaging may be a useful tool for weight loss, particularly among populations most in need of weight-loss treatment," Steinberg said.
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