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TEXT MESSAGING, SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HELP COLLEGE STUDENTS LOSE WEIGHT

October 17, 2011

CONTACT: Renee Cree renee.cree@temple.edu

215-204-6522

 

Melissa Napolitano, PhD.  Photo by Ryan Brandenberg, Temple University

Melissa Napolitano, PhD.

Look around on any college campus and you'll likely see hordes of students with heads down and thumbs furiously tapping away on their smart phones. A new study from Temple finds that this very act — texting and visiting Facebook — can help college students lose weight.

 

The study, led by Melissa Napolitano, an Associate Professor of Kinesiology and a psychologist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education, compared weight loss among a cohort of 52 college-age students, mostly women, who were broken into three groups:

  • Facebook group — these participants visited a private Facebook page to get eating and exercise tips and viewed podcasts on how to improve diet and exercise routines.
  • Facebook-plus group — participants visited the same page, but also received personalized, one-on-one feedback from a researcher via text messaging.
  • Control group — participants received no diet or exercise advice and were put on a waiting list to participate in the program.


At the end of the eight-week study, students in the Facebook-plus group lost the most, an average of about five pounds. Although this weight loss is modest, Napolitano says that it is exciting, given that the program lacks a face-to-face component, because the losses approximate those often found in face-to-face weight loss programs on college campuses.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.2 million college students are obese, a rate that has risen 8 percent in the last 20 years. Research has found that for many college students, weight gain starts small, about 5-7 pounds, but increases steadily during their time in school.

 

“These results show that text messaging and smart phones are powerful tools for delivering weight loss interventions, particularly since these are technologies that most college students have with them at all times," said Napolitano. "These data provide initial signals towards the types of programs that could be disseminated widely across college campuses given the high rates of overweight and obesity."

 

Napolitano presented her research at the Obesity Society's annual meeting in October.