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Previous research has shown that keeping food and exercise diaries improves the likelihood of success when trying to shed excess weight. Using a computer or pen and paper to record information, however, can be a burden and cause some people to give up.
Duke University researchers said using text messages to stay on top of eating and exercise habits can save time and increase the chances that people will stick with their weight-loss regimen.
The study included 26 obese women with an average age of 38. The women used daily texting as part of their weight-loss program. The text messages focused on tracking personalized goals, such as avoiding sugary drinks or walking 10,000 steps a day. Messages also provided brief feedback and tips.
Every morning, the women received 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." Based on the women's responses to the text message, the system sent another text with personalized feedback and a tip.
After six months, the women who used daily texting lost an average of nearly 3 pounds, while another group of women who used traditional methods to keep food and exercise diaries gained an average of 2.5 pounds, according to the study, which was published online Nov. 18 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
"Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviors," study author Dori Steinberg, a postdoctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program, said in a university news release.
Steinberg said text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods. Unlike Web-based diet and exercise diaries, data in a text message can be entered quickly on nearly all cellphone platforms. This provides more portability, nearly real-time tracking and more accessibility for receiving tailored feedback.
And because of the limited number of words used in text messages, it saves time and is not as mentally demanding, Steinberg said.
-- Robert Preidt
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