Purpose: The increased availability and use of the Internet by midlife and older women who seek health information may provide an innovative method for delivering weight loss interventions. This preliminary study examined the feasibility and efficacy of web-based interventions for promoting weight loss among rural overweight and obese women ages 50-69 (M = 55.5 +/- 4.9) over a 3-month period.
Methods: Twenty-one Caucasian women with body mass index of 28-34.5 (M = 30.69 +/- 2.58) were randomly assigned to either a Web site only or Web site augmented with a peer-led support group. The Web site included recommended approaches to healthy eating and activity, weekly newsletters, and other resources. Body weight, eating, and activity measures were assessed at baseline and postintervention. Data analysis included 2-way repeated measures ANOVAs with effect sizes reported as appropriate for a pilot study.
Results: Sixteen women (76.2%) completed the study; 14 lost from 2% to 10% of their body weight, and 2 gained 2% of their weight. Large effect sizes were found over time for body weight, estimated VO2max, and percentage of calories from fat. For time by group interaction, large effect sizes favoring the Web site plus peer-led support group were found for body weight, waist circumference, percent body fat, whole grain servings, and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Process evaluations indicated that 85.7% of women accessed the Web site weekly. There were a total of 305 hits in the Web site only group versus 658 hits in the peer-led support groups.
Conclusions: Internet delivered interventions appeared feasible for these rural women with weight loss and improvement in selected eating and activity measures after 3 months.