Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fight Fat with Text Messaging

Oh, if only sending texts to people burned calories. That's what I thought when I saw the headline that text messaging helps keep kids slim, but UNC-Chapel Hill is just a big tease.

They're not telling us that you can keep your kids trim and healthy by making them send text messages to each other, they're encouraging people to keep their kids slim with digital nagging. It's weight watchers for tech geeks.

Three groups of test subjects (families of parents and children) were given instructions for healthy living and then asked about the amount they walked, the number of sweetened drinks they drank in a day, and the amount of time they spent in front of a (TV or computer) screen over the course of the study.

The group that reported their results via cell phone text message stayed at it the longest, with only 28% dropping out. I thought it was funny that while 50% of the non-reporting group dropped out, a massive 61% of the group that was supposed to write down their results in a diary said "Screw this, I've got better things to do with my time."

The saddest part was the automated messages that were sent back to the text messaging group whenever they reported their results. I see the next big internet startup being programs that generate text messages of encouragement to you while you're on a diet. "Good job, CITIZEN, you did great work REDUCING YOUR CALORIC INTAKE BY -2%."

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Jade said...

Would this really work? Most people that hate something enough will learn to avoid it.

To a great many people this will sound promising, BUT for how long will these people stick with it? Text messaing is one thing, but "watch your calories" messages or another.

Many people have a hard time sticking to a diet and usually don't go through with it. Text messages can be ignored or deleted or scanned through without true reading.

This may work for some people, but I doubt it will become a national trend.

Stanley! said...

Well, there was an interactive element to the study in that the participants had to text the researchers first, letting them know how they had done on their diet for that day--so it wasn't just random e-nags spamming up their cell phone.

The researchers are trying to say that by getting children to use tech toys like their cell phones as an interactive way to keep their minds on their diets, they'd stick with it longer.

I'd still rather have read an article about the number of calories I burn while texting...

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