Wednesday, December 12, 2012

App gives people the motivation to lose weight

Obesity and its associated health problems, including diabetes and cardiovascular complications, are increasing in incidence at an alarming rate. It is typically a welfare disease, resulting from bad lifestyle choices such as unhealthy food, smoking and a lack of exercise. Lots of scientific studies are devoted to 'curing' obesity, but the best treatment is still to improve your lifestyle. It really pays off, a recent study showed: healthy living adds, on average, 14 years to your life. The problem is that people cannot find the required motivation to keep up with a healthy lifestyle, but there are ways to improve that. A recent study shows that an application for smartphones may be of benefit when trying to lose weight.

In a study with obese people, the Northwestern University provided participants with a mobile app that contains self-monitoring techniques for weight loss, goal setting, feedback and social support. For example, the app gave them weekly set points for calorie intake and exercise. Additionally, they were given educational sessions about healthy living. A control group did not get to make use of the app, but did get the educational sessions and were told to write down what they had achieved on paper. The participants were predominantly obese males and on average 58 years old, with no prior experience with the use of mobile apps.

The participants were followed for over a year. In the group with participants that was using the mobile phone app, the average weight loss was 15 pounds. Not only did they lose weight, they also maintained it for over a year. Most of the participants were able to keep up with their healthy lifestyle and did not drop out. For the participants using the app, but not attending the educational sessions, the average weight loss was 8,6 pounds. The control group that had to use the old-fashioned pen and paper did not lose any weight.

According to the researchers, their study shows that mobile apps with interactive features such as the ones mentioned above can provide the right incentive for obese people. Motivation is one of the big problems, but the popularity of smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology may improve this. Because apps have the capability to make a game out of weight loss, it may make things more interesting than just doing it for your health, although the latter should provide plenty of incentive.

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