The study by researchers at Duke University found that after six months, 26 obese women who used daily texting as part of the Shape Plan weight-loss intervention lost nearly 3 pounds, while another 24 who followed traditional methods gained 2 and a half pounds. The average age of participants was 38.
The daily text messages focused on tracking tailored behavioural goals (i.e., no sugary drinks, 10,000 steps per day) along with brief feedback and tips.
"Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviours," lead author Dori Steinberg, a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program, said.
She said that text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods.
Unlike Web-based diet and exercise diaries, data in a text message can be entered quickly on nearly all mobile phone platforms. This provides more portability, nearly real-time tracking and more accessibility for receiving tailored feedback.
Previous studies show that long-term adherence to traditional monitoring is poor, possibly because they are time- and labor-intensive, require extensive numeracy and literacy skills, and can be perceived as burdensome.
Text messaging has been conventionally limited to about 15-20 words per message, thus reducing the detail and cognitive load that is required for documenting diet and exercise behaviours.
The study is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.