In weight loss program, app users win

Mobile app self-monitoring of physical activity and dietary intake among overweight adults participating in a weight loss program are more effective than traditional methods, according to an article in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.

"Self-monitoring of physical activity and diet are key components of behavioral weight loss programs," the article states. "The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between diet (mobile app, website, or paper journal) and PA (mobile app vs. no mobile app) self-monitoring and dietary and PA behaviors."

The study involved a post hoc analysis of a six-month randomized weight loss trial among 96 overweight men and women conducted from 2010 to 2011. Participants in both randomized groups were collapsed and categorized by their chosen self-monitoring method for diet and PA. All participants received a behavioral weight loss intervention delivered via podcast and were encouraged to self-monitor dietary intake and PA.

What the study found was that PA app users self-monitored exercise more frequently over the six month study and reported greater intentional PA than non-app users. PA app users also had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) at six months than non-users.

While frequency of self-monitoring did not differ by diet self-monitoring method, the article found that app users consumed less energy than paper journal users at 6 months. In addition, BMI did not differ among the three diet monitoring methods.

"These findings point to potential benefits of mobile monitoring methods during behavioral weight loss trials," the article concludes. "Future studies should examine ways to predict which self-monitoring method works best for an individual to increase adherence."

A similar study published in in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that mobile technology combined with in-person treatment helps patients lose more weight than the same treatment without mobile support. The patients in the mobile group lost a mean of 3.1 percent more weight than the control group, and lost more weight at each of the quarterly check points. They also had a significantly greater chance of losing at least 5 percent of their weight at each of the check points.

To learn more:
- read the article abstract