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Text Clients Toward Weight Loss

Not everyone uses text messages, but for those who do, fitness professionals can harness the power of technology to help clients get healthier, say researchers at Duke University.

Scientists followed 50 obese women who received either a daily text for weight loss intervention or used more traditional methodology, such as written food journals or computer-tracked journaling. Over 6 months, the 26 subjects in the texting group lost an average of 3 pounds, whereas the 24 who journaled more traditionally actually gained 21⁄2 pounds.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (2013; 15 [11], e244), the text messages zoned in on tracking behavioral goals such as walking 10,000 steps per day and avoiding sugary drinks. Automated texts asked the women to provide progress reports on the number of steps they’d taken that day or how many sugary drinks they’d consumed. When a study participant replied, the response system sent back a personalized message and a tip.

“Text messaging holds promise as a self-monitoring modality for weight control, particularly among groups most at risk for obesity-related morbidities,” concluded the authors. “Given that the majority of evidence indicates that greater adherence leads to better outcomes, our study suggests that health-based approaches to self-monitoring may enhance engagement and reduce the burdens commonly associated with other modes. Our intervention was relatively low intensity and has greater potential for dissemination compared to higher intensity interventions. As technology penetration increases in the target population, the use of this modality will become increasingly relevant and helpful as an intervention too for weight control.”

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