Don't Stop Texting If You Want To Lose Weight: Study
November 18, 2013

Don’t Stop Texting If You Want To Lose Weight

[ Watch the Video: Shedding Pounds With The Help Of Your Smartphone ]

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Texting has received a bit of a tainted reputation lately, mainly in respect to those who cannot put their phones down long enough to walk across a busy intersection or drive to work. However, new research shows that tapping those keys may actually help people lose weight, but maybe not in the way they think.

Researchers from Duke University say using text messages to keep track of diet and exercise habits could help people stay committed to their goal of shedding poundage.

The team wrote in the Journal of Medical Internet Research about how a six-month study showed keeping track of diet and exercise habits through text could save time and improve the likelihood of sticking to a get-healthy routine.

The researchers found 26 obese women who used daily texting as part of the Shape Plan weight-loss intervention lost nearly three pounds, while another 24 who followed traditional methods gained two-and-a-half pounds.

During the study, 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." Participants would respond back, and the automated system would send back another text with personalized feedback and a tip.

"Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviors," lead author Dori Steinberg, a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program, said in a statement.

The team says text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods. They found that unlike web-based diet and exercise diaries, data in a text message can be entered quickly on nearly all mobile phone platforms. This system provides more portability, nearly real-time tracking and more accessibility for receiving tailored feedback.

Past studies have found long-term adherence to traditional monitoring is poor, most likely because they are time- and labor-intensive and require extensive numeracy and literacy skills. Text messages have a limited number of characters, which reduces the detail and cognitive load that is required for documenting diet and exercise behaviors.

The study focused on obese women with an average age of 38-years-old. According to the researchers, 82 percent of the participants in the study were black. The team said they used this large percentage of black women because 59 percent of black women are obese and many use cell phones.

Half of the participants in the study texted every day throughout the six-month program while 85 percent texted at least two days per week. Most of the participants reported texting was easy, and it helped them achieve their goals.

"Given the increasing utilization 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.

One of the hardest things about losing weight for some people is keeping the weight off for the long-term. The next step for the researchers is to see if texting is able to help people maintain their weight loss habits.