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J Am Med Inform Assoc doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001510
  • Research and applications

Comparison of traditional versus mobile app self-monitoring of physical activity and dietary intake among overweight adults participating in an mHealth weight loss program

  1. Deborah F Tate4
  1. 1Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  4. 4Department of Nutrition and Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Gabrielle M Turner-McGrievy, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, 800 Sumter Street, Suite 216, Columbia, SC 29208, USA; brie{at}sc.edu
  • Received 19 November 2012
  • Revised 7 January 2013
  • Accepted 4 February 2013
  • Published Online First 21 February 2013

Abstract

Objective Self-monitoring of physical activity (PA) and diet are key components of behavioral weight loss programs. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between diet (mobile app, website, or paper journal) and PA (mobile app vs no mobile app) self-monitoring and dietary and PA behaviors.

Materials and methods This study is a post hoc analysis of a 6-month randomized weight loss trial among 96 overweight men and women (body mass index (BMI) 25–45 kg/m2) conducted from 2010 to 2011. Participants in both randomized groups were collapsed and categorized by their chosen self-monitoring method for diet and PA. All participants received a behavioral weight loss intervention delivered via podcast and were encouraged to self-monitor dietary intake and PA.

Results Adjusting for randomized group and demographics, PA app users self-monitored exercise more frequently over the 6-month study (2.6±0.5 days/week) and reported greater intentional PA (196.4±45.9 kcal/day) than non-app users (1.2±0.5 days/week PA self-monitoring, p<0.01; 100.9±45.1 kcal/day intentional PA, p=0.02). PA app users also had a significantly lower BMI at 6 months (31.5±0.5 kg/m2) than non-users (32.5±0.5 kg/m2; p=0.02). Frequency of self-monitoring did not differ by diet self-monitoring method (p=0.63); however, app users consumed less energy (1437±188 kcal/day) than paper journal users (2049±175 kcal/day; p=0.01) at 6 months. BMI did not differ among the three diet monitoring methods (p=0.20).

Conclusions These findings point to potential benefits of mobile monitoring methods during behavioral weight loss trials. Future studies should examine ways to predict which self-monitoring method works best for an individual to increase adherence.

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