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Virtual Advisor Helps Older Latinos Move More

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 79% of Hispanic adults in the United States are overweight or obese. One possible way to improve that statistic is through the use of a virtual physical activity advisor, suggests a new study.

Led by researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, the study involved 40 inactive low-income Latino adults, aged 55 and older. Nearly all of them had a history of chronic illness (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis). Subjects were assigned to either a 4-month walking group or a nonexercise control group. Those in the walking group were provided pedometers and weekly evaluation sessions with “Carmen,” a “culturally and linguistically adapted virtual advisor,” who provided guidance, personalized feedback and goal-setting tips.

At the 4-month mark, active-group participants were walking an average of 253 minutes each week.
“The results indicate that a virtual advisor delivering culturally and linguistically adapted physical activity advice led to meaningful 4-month increases in walking relative to control among underserved older adults,” the study authors reported. “This interactive technology, which requires minimal language and computer literacy, may help reduce health disparities by ensuring that all groups benefit from e-health opportunities.”

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