On a diet? Download an app

Weight loss results improved from counting calories and tracking exercise

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Want to stick to your diet and exercise routine? Enlist the help of your smart phone or PDA, as well as a support group, and you're more likely to see success.

Although the difference was not dramatic, a group of overweight adults using electronic devices to track their exercise and calorie goals lost a little more weight than their notebook-toting peers, though they would probably have kept more off if they had attended more group meetings.

"Consider using a smart phone to track calories and exercise."

Lora Burke, Ph.D., a professor of nursing and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, led the study looking at how well patients trying to lose weight were able to meet their daily and weekly goals.

The researchers split 210 predominantly white, mostly female overweight or obese adults into three groups. One group used a paper diary to track their goals, one group used a handheld electronic device that didn't offer any feedback, and one group used an electronic device that provided daily reminders.

The five factors the participants tracked included attending group meetings, monitoring eating and exercise overall, reaching weekly exercise goals, and meeting daily calorie and fat intake goals.

During the first 18 months of the study, 39 group sessions were held, and one "maintenance" meeting was held in the last six months.

While the participants entered their daily food, drinks and exercise amounts, those using the electronic devices could see how many calories and fat grams they had already eaten compared to their target amounts.

The group with the devices that gave reminders gave feedback on the person's diet once daily and on exercise every two days.

The three groups were tracked for up to two years, and those using the electronic device with daily feedback had lost about 5 percent more weight after six months of the program. However, this group still became less diligent about sticking to their goals as more time passed, and they began to gain back a little weight.

After two years, all three groups had lost a similar amount of weight, though the ones using the electronic device with daily messages had lost a little more.

Burke said the study confirms that people are more likely to regain weight if they withdraw from regular contact holding them accountable. She said the participants would have adhered to their plans and tracking better had they had more frequent group sessions in the last half of the trio.

Although the results were not dramatic, using the electronic device still led to better results than tracking goals by paper.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions. Information regarding funding and conflicts of interest were unavailable.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 16, 2012
Last Updated:
March 21, 2012