A new study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that regular reminders (sent via text messaging) to do things like eat right, exercise more, and smoke less may help individuals make lifestyle changes linked to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes. Researchers sent four texts a week to about 350 people with heart disease to supplement their regular care with reminders designed to encourage healthier habits. Another group of about 350 patients stuck with their usual care routines but didn’t receive texts. After six months, patients who got the texts generally had more success reducing their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and tobacco use than the people who didn’t.
“The benefit to exercise, quitting smoking, and lowering (weight) after six months of text message reminders are substantial,” said lead study author Dr. Clara Chow, a cardiology researcher at the George Institute for Global Health and University of Sydney. Chow and her colleagues note that text messages may be an easy and affordable way to reach individuals who need support making lifestyle changes.
Researchers examined patients at the start of the study and again six months later to assess fasting lipid levels, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, and waist circumference. They also questioned participants about their eating, exercise, and smoking habits.
One limitation of the study, which was noted in an editorial written by Dr. Zubin Eapen and Dr. Eric Peterson, was that it is unclear whether the changes individuals experienced might last once the text messages stopped or the optimal number of texts needed to make new habits stick. Even though more research is needed, the study suggests that texts may play a critical future role in helping patients make lifestyle changes.
With mobile phones being nearly ubiquitous throughout the world, text messaging is a great low-tech, high-touch means to disseminate health content to employees. With more than 90% of text messages being read within the first three minutes of being received, text messages are far better way to help employees make lifestyle changes than wellness newsletters, seminars, and other options available to employers to disseminate health content. Request a demo of Wellable’s text messaging platform to learn more about why text messaging is right for your employees and your budget!