Transl J Am Coll Sports Med. 2020 Feb 15;5(4):29-38. doi: 10.1249/tjx.0000000000000116.
Evidence supports the use of technology supported multicomponent interventions for promoting weight loss. Many such programs include the opportunity to synchronously pair commercially available physical activity trackers (PA-T) with a goal to enhance weight loss outcomes. However, little is known about the reach and effectiveness of allowing participants to pair a PA-T within an existing online program.
PURPOSE: This matched cohort, quasi-experimental study aimed to determine 1) the proportion of participants that pair a PA-T to the existing program, 2) the representativeness of participants who pair a PA-T; 3) the relationship between pairing a PA-T, overall weight loss, and the likelihood of achieving a clinically meaningful weight loss; and 4) if pairing a PA-T with program participation is related to weight loss outcomes independently or collectively when considering other indices of program engagement.
METHODS: Data collected over a four-year period included demographic self-report, objective weight data uploaded when participants weighed themselves at a self-serve program kiosk available to the community, and program engagement data (e.g., logins to program website). A range of analyses, including descriptive proportions, analyses of variance, and path analyses, were used to address the purposes of the study.
RESULTS: Participants who paired a PA-T were more likely to be women (p<.001), African American (p<.001), and have a higher BMI (p<.05). Those who paired a PA-T lost on average an extra 1% body weight and were 1.4 times more likely to lose 5% body weight. Pairing a PA-T was related to other indices of online program engagement and both directly and indirectly contributed to weight loss outcomes (p<.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Pairing a PA-T within an online weight loss program appeals to groups that experience disparities related to obesity and predicts improvements in weight loss. More translational studies are needed to examine the role of personal psychosocial and environmental factors that may enhance or diminish the benefit of pairing a PA-T to evidence-based, online weight loss programs.