A new study from Shape-Up, jointly authored by several university researchers, shows how adding online tracking tools, feedback and educational content to a weight-loss effort substantially increases results. Because traditional weight-loss programs are expensive to administer, researchers also studied the effects of online only behavioral interventions. Researchers concluded that an Internet-based behavioral program alone was the more cost-effective method to enhance weight loss.
The researchers analyzed the weight loss outcomes of 230 ShapeUp participants in a three-month, team-based fitness competition. Specifically, they found that adding evidence-based online behavioral interventions combined with optional in-person group sessions led to an average weight loss of 6.1 percent of total body weight and increased the number of participants who lost a clinically significant portion (5%) of their body weight eight–fold – from 6.5 percent to 54.3 percent. Perhaps most notably, among participants who received only the online behavioral interventions, the average weight loss was 4.2 percent of total body weight, and the number who achieved clinically significant weight loss increased six-fold from 6.5 percent to 42.2 percent.
“The findings of this study are significant in that they reveal substantial progress in identifying cost-effective, scalable, online behavioral weight loss interventions that are capable of significantly improving outcomes,” said Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp and one of the co-authors of the study. “At ShapeUp, we believe that combining social support with evidence-based health interventions is a recipe for sustainable behavior change, and this study strengthens our conviction.”
Participants with access to the program’s online component leveraged weekly video lessons based on the National Diabetes Prevention Program and a self-monitoring platform in which they tracked their daily weight, nutrition, and activity information. On the basis of the information reported, participants also received weekly feedback on their progress. A subgroup of the study population had access to in-person, weekly, group-based educational sessions that included private weigh-ins and instruction on topics such as recipe modification and portion control.
About 4% of U.S. consumers plan to enroll in or pay for a weight loss program this year. This largely female audience (57%), over-indexes for intent to pay for facials and other day spa services in the next year. In addition, 45% of this audience has responded to an ad they've seen on a social network site, a 96% higher than average rate. This trend suggests that social media may be a good way to recruit participants for an online and social-based diet counseling program.
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