We all know excess weight adversely affects our health. Obesity increases the risk for many serious diseases and conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, to name just a few. But knowing that something is harmful and changing behaviors are two very different things. Despite the fitness trackers we have access to, one of the biggest challenges to losing weight remains sticking with a healthy eating and exercise program after the initial motivation has waned.

A recent study in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare found that the combination of video coaching and self-monitoring through smart devices lead to “clinically significant weight loss” (defined in the study as a loss of 5% or more of initial body weight) within a 6-month period. According to the study abstract, “the purpose of this study was to assess body weight change from a 12-week telehealth-based weight loss program that integrated health coaching via video conferencing.” 25 obese participants took part in the 12-week online weight loss program. Participants were assigned to an intervention group or a control group and given access to a platform for data tracking and video conferencing with the research team. Control group participants met with the research team at the beginning of the study, and at the end of the 12 weeks; intervention group participants met with a registered dietitian weekly and medical doctor monthly, via video conferencing. At the end of the study, the average body weight loss for the intervention group was approximately 16 pounds, while it was around 3 pounds for the control group. The study also found that 9 out of 13 participants in the intervention group achieved clinically significant weight loss, while just 1 out of 12 in the control group did.

Researchers concluded that the combination of real-time access to a healthcare professional through video coaching, plus monitoring through smart devices, may lead to significant body weight loss in obese individuals. While the ability to self-monitor diet and exercise choices through apps is a step in the right direction, this study’s researchers found that it’s not enough. What’s needed is consistent feedback and support from a healthcare provider to promote long-term change. With obesity a significant health issue in the U.S., programs like this could reduce healthcare costs.