Online weight loss plans are web-based fitness programs designed to help participants lose weight. These may include assistance in the areas necessary for weight loss such as goal setting, progress tracking, meal and workout planning and personal support from personal trainers or fitness coaches.
Online weight loss plans are usually interactive programs that provide the user with diet information, workout routines, meal planning, goal tracking, and feedback. Web-based programs usually attempt to incorporate all of these areas and customize them for a particular user. The user will usually fill out a questionnaire before proceeding. The questionnaire will contain information such as current eating patterns, fitness levels and goals.
A personalized meal plan and workout program are usually created for the user. One feature of these programs is the use of online tools to track improvements, and to log workout and diet information. The idea behind these tracking tools is that by tracking fitness, a person can make more progress by aiming for and meeting regular fitness goals. Programs range in price from the very basic, to highly customized programs created by celebrity fitness experts. There are also free web-based programs. While they usually provide access to online tools, they may not provide any customized plans.
Online weight loss plans usually contain some of these elements:
- Weekly shopping lists
- Workout routines and meal plans
- Regular support from a fitness coach or personal trainer (some with round-the-clock support)
- Regular tracking of progress
- Workout videos
- Some type of online workout calendar or journal
In a year-long study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, participants of an online weight loss plan lost more than twice the weight of participants who took part in a more traditional program. It has been shown that people who have used online weight loss plans for 18 months were able to maintain significant weight loss. Many studies now show that Internet programs are viable tools to help people maintain weight loss over the long term. In one study, a group of 250 people lost weight over a six-month period and maintained weight loss for 12 months afterwards using an online weight loss plan. The low cost combined with the lack of need for face-to-face meetings with a nutritionist or personal trainer make Internet programs easy to maintain long-term loss. The requirement of constantly updating weight and other measurements helps to hold the user accountable as well. This could help people maintain weight loss over a long period. Many studies even show that participants that logged in to their online programs more also experienced, on average, more weight loss. There has been an upsurge of companies specifically dealing with only online weight loss. There has recently been research into the effectiveness of web-based weight loss programs in primary care settings.