Motivation Articles

Study: Socializing on SparkPeople Helps with Weight Loss

Researchers Say Patients Should be Referred Here

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The gallery of Success Stories, piles of media clips and endless stream of thank-you message from members who have reached their goals and changed their lives forever are all proof that SparkPeople's program works. But now, a second study led by researchers at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston bolsters what our experts and millions of members already knew: No Spark man (or woman) is an island, and the support provided by our community is invaluable.

Dr. Kevin O. Hwang, lead researcher and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, surveyed 193 members, conducted interviews and analyzed selected posts on the Message Boards.

Hwang also led a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Medicine that determined that SparkPeople.com members can trust the weight-loss advice they receive from other members on our Message Boards.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, set out to describe the social support provided to members and concluded:

"This Internet weight loss community plays a prominent role in participants’ weight loss efforts. Social support within Internet weight loss communities merits further evaluation as a weight loss resource for clinicians to recommend to patients. Understanding these communities could improve how health professionals evaluate, build, harness, and manipulate social support for weight loss."

Researchers said: "By providing a venue for social support, [SparkPeople] functions as a valuable weight loss resource for active participants." They recommend that health-care providers "refer patients to sustainable social support resources such as SparkPeople.com."

In interviews, researchers asked members about their experiences with SparkPeople, what they valued most about SparkPeople, how other members have helped them with their weight loss, and how the interactions with SparkPeople members differed from those with people in their everyday lives.

Survey respondents reported that SparkPeople members were "available, responsive to questioning, empathetic and welcoming." Not just making idle conversation, members said they get encouragement and motivation from their SparkFriends, they share common experiences, recognize each other's success and hold each other accountable. They also get a good dose of friendly competition.

The researchers already knew that in-person support from peers is beneficial to those trying to lose weight. They also knew that Internet communities allowed people with similar health issues and lifestyles to interact online. But the extent to which those two could be combined wasn't known.

The new study taught them that here at SparkPeople, the online support members find on the Message Boards and in Teams plays a "prominent role" in their weight-loss efforts. The support is convenient and motivational, and members reported that the support not only helps them cope with being overweight, but it also helps them lose more weight than if they were going it alone.
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About The Author

Stepfanie Romine Stepfanie Romine
A former newspaper reporter, Stepfanie now writes about nutrition, health, fitness and cooking. She is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher who enjoys running, international travel and all kinds of vegetables. See all of Stepfanie's articles.

Member Comments

  • Two things changed my life when it comes to wellness. Writing a Spark blog and joining Spark teams with people going through similar challenges. It has transformed my wellness journey. The support, information and connection has made the difference for me. My suggestions would be to take the time to seek out teams that are very ACTIVE. I also found a team which is very small, but incredibly active with people who share the same challenges. Small, but active teams encourage direct, immediate and more personal connections with people. I feel very supported on my teams. Take the time to find the right team for you and it will make a world of difference. - 9/16/2014 6:58:18 PM
  • ive been on sparkpeople since 2011 and while i love the site and alot of the things that go on with it. I really havent had much interaction with people. not that i havent tried. I post messages and add new friends but really havent gotten much from people. Maybe its just me not going about it right or something, but im still here and going on with my weight loss. I hope to figure out how the blogs and things really work because i really could use people cheering me on like i see others getting. Keep on sparking. - 5/9/2014 9:51:50 AM
  • Beyond weight loss, SP is so valuable for maintenance and just healthy living in general. I credit SP for my 4 years of maintenance. I start each morning right here! - 2/1/2014 8:14:51 AM
  • My diabetic doctor has referred many a people to SparkPeople. I told him about it. - 7/19/2013 11:27:00 PM
  • TOOTS1232
    My friend and I joined sparkpeople last July 2011. I had issues and couldn't get going. She stuck to it. Reached her goal and lost 70 by this past Feb 2012. I am so proud of her....she showed me that it works...so here I am back again with a new attitude - 6/24/2012 1:33:04 PM
  • thanks for all the inspiring comments,I'm so glad I joined up - 5/17/2012 10:06:01 PM
  • i LOVE this article ... it is very reassuring to know that a gut feeling is backed up by research .... yay spark people!
    - 5/17/2012 7:04:32 PM
  • I've found the on-line interaction and tools much more helpful than the "live" meetings of WW that I participated in some years ago.

    I do agree that one has to be careful not to allow oneself to become glued to the keyboard, however. - 2/18/2012 9:54:45 PM
  • BROCCOLIROSE
    My Doctor has been very pleased with my progress just these last 5 weeks. He asked me what I had been doing as he is NOT a believer of "fad" diets, etc. I told him about SparkPeople and he wrote down the website address. A few days later he called and thanked me for the information. He said he spent an entire evening reading all over the web site....he was totally impressed. In fact he was so impressed he had already given 2 of his patients the address....SparkP
    eople WORKS! - 12/5/2011 10:34:45 PM
  • WOW!!! So now I know I can do this. It makes my day to be able to log on to SP. I love all the challenges and my teams. The best site on the net - 11/8/2011 5:32:53 PM
  • MARLYKNITS
    This is fabulous! I have found SparkPeople to be much more welcoming and informative than other sites I have used. I am so glad to see that others, especially the medical community, are recognizing was a great resource this site is. - 7/25/2011 9:09:42 PM
  • It's all about having others "around" you working toward a similar goal. The new team I found seems to be the right fit for me. Just took me years to find it. Time to get cracking and get this extra weight off. Size 8 here I come (again). - 7/25/2011 7:35:16 PM
  • I've recommended SparkPeople to coworkers and friends who've asked (in fact, at least one of my Facebook friends is now on Spark as well). In addition, I've recommended it as a resource to both my diabetes educator and my doctor for them to pass along to others who might be looking for help in losing weight or managing diabetes. - 7/25/2011 5:06:15 PM
  • While I agree that the use of a support system, which is inherently a part of Sparkpeople, is fantastic, I do think that it's easy to spend hours on Sparkpeople each day in all the forums, teams, etc. - I think it's important to be disciplined to find the teams/challenges that provide the right support for you, and not get involved in too many - or instead of exercising, you're spending time in front of the computer sparking! - 7/25/2011 10:10:11 AM
  • HAving been with several weight loss journeys in my life, I have been MOST successful with group support from others going through the same trip. - 4/2/2011 6:34:34 PM

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