Lifestyle Coach From a Mobile App

Diet and exercise are easier to stick with when a person is accountable to someone

(RxWiki News) Having a lifestyle coach to encourage a good diet and being active could help people make the changes necessary to achieve positive changes. Which could really last.

A coach on the cell phone might be the best option.

Researchers have found that using a person’s cell phone to keep them on track with diet and exercise could be beneficial.

Or were the financial incentives what really mattered?

"Check out diet and exercise mobile applications!"

Bonnie Spring, PhD, professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, led a group of colleagues to see how modern mobile technology could be useful in helping patients make better lifestyle choices.

A group of 204 adults with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as a high fat/low produce diet and low physical activity, were monitored in four treatment groups:1) eat more fruits and veggies and exercise more, 2) eat less fatty foods and be more active overall, 3) eat less fatty foods and exercise more, 4) eat more fruits and veggies and be more active overall.

The individuals in the group were ‘coached’ from their cell phones created by the research team and offered financial incentives for three weeks. Participants were able to record their behavior on their phones and watch their progress.

Every day each participant uploaded their information for the researchers to monitor and could also communicate with the researchers for help or support.

Each participant was eligible to earn up to $175 for doing well during the three week trial and up to an additional $80 at the five month follow up session for continuing good behavior.

Two hundred of the 204, or 98 percent, completed a five month follow-up. Results showed that the groups that were supposed to increase their fruits and veggies went from 1.2 servings per day to 5.5 servings per day. Those who were supposed to be more active overall went from being inactive in their down time for 219.2 minutes per day to 89.3 minutes per day. The consumption of fatty foods went from 12 percent to 9.5 percent of daily calories.

Researchers concluded that focusing on eating more fruits and veggies and getting people to be more active overall and less sedentary in their down time can be successfully improved with financial rewards and cell phone coaching.

According to the researchers: “This study demonstrates the feasibility of changing multiple unhealthy diet and activity behaviors simultaneously, efficiently and with minimal face-to-face contact by using mobile technology, remote coaching, and incentives.”

Once the participants stopped using the cell phone application and checking in their coaches they did backslide in their diets and physical activity habits.

The good thing about using a cell phone application like this is that it is sustainable and an inexpensive and easy to use service like this could help a lot of people make healthy lifestyle changes in the long term.

This study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, May 2012. Funding for the research was provided by grants form the National Institutes of Health and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
June 6, 2012