Study: Online Intervention Program Improves Weight Loss Results

August 1, 2014 in News

Supplementing a weight loss program with online behavioral intervention is less costly and nearly as effective as adding in-person support group sessions, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, MobiHealthNews reports.

Details of Study

All participants in the study were a part of ShapeUp Rhode Island 2011, a three-month competition-based weight loss program.

Participants received pedometers, competed in teams and reported their daily physical activity and weight loss on a website.

The participants were broken up into three groups:

  • One group was only involved in SURI;
  • One group had access to an online behavioral intervention program in addition to participating in SURI; and
  • One group had access to the online program, SURI and optional, in-person support group meetings.

As part of the online behavioral intervention program, participants were given goals for weight loss, calorie intake and physical activity. In addition, participants with access to the online program also could use a website that provided:

  • Self-monitoring tools;
  • Short educational videos; and
  • Tips on cooking and meal plans.


According to MobiHealthNews, the group with access to all three intervention methods had the best weight loss results:

  • About 54% in that group lost 5% or more of their initial body weight; and
  • The group had an average weight loss of 6.1% of their initial body weight.

Meanwhile, the group with access to SURI and the online intervention also had positive results:

  • About 42% lost 5% or more of their initial body weight; and
  • The group had an average weight loss of 4.2% of their initial body weight.

In the group that only had access to SURI, only 6.5% of participants lost 5% or more of their total body weight. However, such participants did have the highest increase in physical activity, the study found.

To calculate cost effectiveness of each intervention, the researchers divided the average weight loss by the average per-person cost. They found that cost effectiveness was about the same for SURI and the SURI and online behavioral interventions. However, the group that also had access to in-person sessions had significantly higher costs, according to the study (Comstock, MobiHealthNews, 7/30).

Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp and co-author of the study, in a statement said, “The findings of this study are significant in that they reveal substantial progress in identifying cost-effective, scalable, online behavioral weight loss interventions that are capable of significantly improving outcomes” (ShapeUp release, 7/29).

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