Can social media help you lose weight?
Could a sedentary activity like sitting in front of your computer help you lose weight? A recent report says, “yes,” but only when that activity involves the use of social media as a support tool.
Researchers from Imperial College London collected data from 12 studies, analyzing more than 1,800 people who used social networking services for weight loss. The study, published in the Health Affairs journal, found that individuals who enlisted social media as a support tool in weight loss achieved a decrease in body mass index by a “modest, but significant” 0.64 percent.
Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, lead author of the study, said in a press release, “One advantage of using social media over other methods is that it offers the potential to be much more cost-effective and practical for day-to-day use when compared to traditional approaches. The feeling of being part of a community allows patients to draw on the support of their peers as well as clinicians. They can get advice from their doctor without the inconvenience or cost of having to travel, and clinicians can provide advice to many patients simultaneously.”
People who turn to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter for support are using those tools in a number of different ways. By publicizing their nutrition and fitness goals, a large number hold themselves accountable through social media. Others access social networking to find healthy lifestyle tips and connect with others who are trying to achieve their same goals.
“Obesity is a major contributor of diseases like diabetes and heart failure,” says Dr. Vidhya Viswanathan, pediatric endocrinologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Individuals might find social networks to be an additional support outlet in helping them reach a weight-loss goal. People can find healthy living tips from nutrition and exercise websites or message boards, and they also can receive encouragement from others by sharing their progress along the way.”
The study further explains that some social networking services offer a complex approach for patients, integrating online community networks, data collection for analysis of obesity behaviors and access to health care providers through instant messaging and secure chat forums.
Illinois-based physician group, Advocate Medical Group, recently launched an online tool that allows patients the opportunity to privately message their doctor a medical question and keep their own online health journal.
About the Author
Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.