If you are a social media maven and are resolving to shed some holiday weight in the New Year, I have just the diet for you. A new study by the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health revealed that using Twitter may help people lose weight by providing them with social support.
The six-month study of 96 overweight men living in a metropolitan area found that their use of Twitter as part of a weight-loss program, improved their chances of losing weight. Throughout the study, which was one of the first to examine the use of Twitter as part of a behavioral weight-loss program, there were 2,630 Twitter posts. Seventy-five percent of those were informational and about weight loss achievements, while other posts involved emotional support.
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"We wanted to find a way to provide the group support we normally deliver during a face-to-face weight loss intervention to the online community," said Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, lead author of the study, in a statement. "The results show that those who regularly utilized Twitter as part of a mobile weight-loss program lost more weight.”
Study participants were given mobile devices and divided into two groups. They were then given two 15-minute podcasts per week for three months along with two five-minute mini-podcasts per week during the last three months of the study.
Users in the mobile group logged on to Twitter daily to read and post messages. In addition, one group followed each other on Twitter with the goal of providing social support to one another via status updates such as "I went to the gym today. Felt great!" Weight loss counselors also tweeted participants twice a day with information and words of encouragement.
Overall, for every 10 posts to Twitter, the participants experienced a five percent weight loss. Both groups of participants lost an average of 2.7 percent of their excess weight after six months.
"Traditional behavioral weight-loss interventions generally provide social support through weekly, face-to-face group meetings. While we know this is effective, it is costly and can create a high degree of burden on participants," Turner-McGrievy said. "Providing group support through online social networks can be a low-cost way to reach a large number of people who are interested in achieving a healthy weight."
But, Twitter didn't work for everyone in the study. Some people were not engaged or posted only a few times.
The team is also turning to Facebook to see if it provides the same weight loss support. Turner-McGrievy said, “We hope to explore more in future studies about how to predict who will engage in a social network.”
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo