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Mobile Health Technology and Wearable Devices May Promote Weight Loss

Thanks to increasing attempts being made to tackle the present global obesity epidemic, mobile health ("mHealth") technology and wearable devices have evolved as potential tools for encouraging physical activity.

However, according to present literature, these new technologies may work best as part of a bigger overall health plan, instead of working alone to promote weight loss.

Nicole Spartano, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, comments in a review for this week's Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity, that while recent literature indicates that self-monitoring behavior plays a role in promoting weight loss, it may not be sufficient to maintain the fitness of people when used without giving a thought to behavioral strategies.

There is not sufficient evidence that wearable devices can promote sustained behavior change and long-term weight maintenance on their own.

Nicole Spartano, PhD, Research Assistant Professor

She in fact cites one study, in which there was a considerable improvement in step counts through a game-based intervention when compared to a group of individuals that used a fitness tracker but without an incentive program, summing up that "using social or financial incentives and techniques like gamification may support motivation of behavior change".

Spartano is also concerned about groups that are being left behind with mobile health technology and wearable device-based weight loss studies.

Strategies for research study recruitment and, more importantly, for implementing wearable and mHealth technology into a clinical setting or community public health program (in schools, workplace, church or other community-setting) require extra thought and cultural sensitivity to ensure the equity in potential public resources and opportunities.

Nicole Spartano, PhD, Research Assistant Professor

Eventually, Spartano is hopeful regarding the role these latest technologies may play in devising weight loss and overall health strategies between primary care providers and their patients. "Integration of mHealth technology and wearable devices in primary care settings presents an opportunity to capitalize on the routine relationship that patients and providers have."

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