Your Health

Logging On Helps People Lose Weight

woman on a bathroom scale

hide captionRegular participation on an interactive website helped some patients maintain weight loss.

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It seems like we're all searching for that “magic bullet” to help us lose weight but here’s an idea that might really help: Logging on. Yes — to your computer.

Sitting in front of your computer is unquestionably a sedentary activity, and one many of us do way too much.

But researchers at Kaiser Permanente say when patients regularly logged on to an Internet weight loss support group, they increased their chances of staying active and managing their weight.

The small federally-funded study was part of a much larger ongoing evaluation of weight maintenance programs.

Researchers followed 348 overweight or obese individuals who had recently lost an average of 19 pounds during a weight loss program. Their goal, of course, was to maintain that weight loss.

To help them meet that goal, participants were offered an interactive web site created specifically for the study.  They were asked to log on once a week, record their weight and how much they exercised, and note whether they kept a food diary, detailing what and how much they ate each day.

They were also offered a chance to participate on an interactive billboard with other study participants and pose questions to nutrition and exercise experts.

After two and a half years, researchers found that the patients who consistently used the web site — those who logged in and recorded their weight at least once a month for 24 months — maintained the greatest weight loss.  They kept off an average of nine of the original 19 pounds they'd lost.  Those who logged on less consistently kept off only three to five pounds.

At the end of the study, most of the original 348 participants were still logging on to the web site.

Researchers say this level of commitment is encouraging and holds promise for other web based weight maintenance programs. While the study web site is no longer available, researchers say there are a number of other weight management web sites worth checking out.

They suggest consumers look for the following important elements in any online weight loss program:

  • Sites that encourage accountability by asking users to consistently record weight, exercise and calories consumed
  • Sites that include tailored or personalized information
  • Sites with interactive features that allow users to communicate with each other and with nutrition and exercise experts
  • Sites with accurate health information

The study is published — where else but online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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