Social Networking May Help Boost Weight Loss

While many of us post health and fitness goals (on Facebook or Twitter) in order to hold ourselves more accountable as we strive for our goals, a new study shows that all that social networking may offer some benefits.

Researchers at Imperial College in London have found that social networking – especially sites geared toward health and fitness – could be an effective medium to help encourage weight loss for overweight and obese patients.

In a review of 12 studies involving 1,884 patients, the 941 patients that used social networking services ranging from web-based tools and mobile technology to personal feedback provided after physical activity information was uploaded to a site – reduced their BMI more than those who did not.

“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,” said the study’s lead author, health policy researcher and surgeon Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, of Imperial College Long’s Department of Surgery and Cancer.

And although the reduction was significant, it proved to be only temporary. Most of the improvements occurred in the first six months of the study, and by the 12-month mark, much of the lost weight had been regained, suggesting that social networking – like any weight-loss plan – requires dedication and commitment.

“This suggests that compliance may be a factor in achieving a long-term, sustainable reduction in BMI,” the authors wrote.

The study appeared in the journal Health Affairs.

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