Online Social Support Can Assist Weight Loss


Obesity is a prevalent issue in the United States, affecting 42.5% of adults aged 20 and over. It is not only the nation’s second leading cause of preventable death, following smoking, but also contributes to various serious health problems. These include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, sleep apnea, and liver disease. In addition to the health implications, obesity imposes a significant financial burden on the healthcare system.

As individuals often make New Year’s resolutions regarding exercise and weight loss goals, a long-term study conducted by University of Missouri researcher Mansoo Yu sheds light on specific features of online weight loss interventions that are most likely to lead to sustained weight loss and maintenance. Yu’s research focuses on middle-aged adults (ages 35-55) with obesity or overweight and identifies counseling with professional health coaches and social support from other users as the two most beneficial features of online weight-loss programs.

The study draws attention to the importance of selecting online weight loss interventions carefully from the multitude of options available in the digital age. The research reveals that interventions with social support from other participants or professional health coaches are as effective as in-person weight loss interventions. This is particularly significant for individuals living in rural areas, where obesity rates are higher, as online interventions provide greater accessibility, flexibility, and convenience, reducing transportation times and costs.

Obesity plays a big role in mental health as well, including issues such as depression, poor self-esteem, and social isolation that individuals with obesity may face. The research also underscores the effectiveness of online interventions in providing evidence-based recommendations to the broader community.

For those embarking on New Year’s resolutions related to weight loss and exercise, here are some quick tips that can help to keep you on track with your weight loss journey: 

  • Share your resolution with friends, family, significant others, and colleagues to increase accountability and social support.
  • Schedule some form of physical activity into your daily routine.
  • Check-in with others to see how their resolutions are going and offer words of encouragement.
  • Engage in friendly competition with peers, such as tracking steps, to encourage physical activity.
  • Seek advice from professional health coaches for evidence-based guidance on exercise or diet-related questions.
  • These tips aim to foster a supportive environment and encourage sustainable lifestyle changes for individuals working towards their health and fitness goals.

How do you get social support for your fitness journey? Leave your tips in the comments below.

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