By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

May 20, 2012

You can change your diet and activity behaviors simultaneously with a little help from reporting to a coach!

A mobile device that connects patients to a coach can help the patients eat more fruits and vegetables and spend less time sitting around, researchers found.

Patients who focused on these two behaviors and uploaded their daily dietary intake and exercise habits to a remote coach saw their daily fruit and vegetable intake rise from an average of 1.2 servings at baseline to 5.5 servings at the end of the trial phase, while their sedentary leisure time fell from 219.2 minutes to 89.3 minutes. In addition, their percentage of calories from saturated fat fell from 12% to 9.5%, noted Bonnie Spring, PhD, of Northwestern University, and colleagues.

The study “demonstrates the feasibility of changing multiple unhealthy diet and activity behaviors simultaneously, efficiently, and with minimal face-to-face contact by using mobile technology, remote coaching, and incentives,” they wrote in the May 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

To test which combinations of diet and activity advice would be most helpful in the context of remote coaching, the researchers randomized 204 adults with elevated saturated fat and low fruit and vegetable intake, lots of sedentary leisure time, and little physical activity to one of four sets of objectives:

  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity
  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake and decrease sedentary leisure time
  • Decrease fat and sedentary leisure time
  • Decrease fat and increase physical activity

All of the treatments involved three weeks of remote coaching. Patients used a handheld mobile device to send their coaches information on dietary intake, activity, and sedentary time. They were advised to carry the device around and record their behaviors immediately, earning money for those updates during the treatment phase and a follow-up period.

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