Mobile apps may help you lose weight, and keep it off

A new study finds that using a mobile app as part of your weight-loss program can help you drop as much as 6.8 kilos and keep it off for at least a year.

Researchers from Northwestern University in the US found that subjects using mobile apps while also attending classes on nutrition and exercise lost more weight than those who didn't use an app.

"The app is important because it helps people regulate their behavior, which is really hard to do," says Bonnie Spring, lead investigator of the study and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Most of us have no idea how many calories we consume and how much physical activity we get."

"The app gives you feedback on this and helps you make smart decisions in the moment," she adds.

Spring and her team recruited 69 overweight and obese adults averaging around 58 years old and predominantly male. Subjects attended classes on nutrition, exercise, and behavior change twice monthly during the first six months of the study, and once monthly for the remainder of the year.

Subjects were divided into randomly assigned groups, with some of the participants receiving mobile apps to track their diet and exercise data. The subjects also had the opportunity to transmit their data to a behavioral coach, who provided telephone coaching for 10 to 15 minutes about twice a month.

While mobile apps didn't provide a magic bullet, those subjects who attended 80 percent of the classes and used mobile apps plus coaching lost the most weight, about 6.8 kilos, and maintained the loss for one year. Those in the mobile app group who didn't attend education sessions lost nearly four kilos on average. The control group -- those who received education sessions but no mobile app or coaching -- didn't lose any weight.

The study was published Monday, December 10, in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

A recent study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that 31 percent of US mobile phone owners have used their devices to look up health information, with nearly 20 percent of users having downloaded at least one health app.

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