Friday, March 29, 2013

Friend and Foe

Most of us tend to automatically assume that, when it comes to obesity, technology is much more our foe than our friend. There's no doubt a great deal of truth to that as our work and leisure time activities seem to be trending every more towards sedentary tasks, so that weight loss in Los Angeles and every other American city seems to be harder than ever before. Still, there is the occasional technological trend that goes in the opposite direction and may actually move some of us ever so slightly further away from requiring bariatric surgery.

For example, it might be tempting to paint with a broad brush about teenagers sinking ever deeper into their couches playing video games. However, not all video games encourage couch-potato behavior. The fact of the matter is that such games as Dance Dance Revolution and even Rock Band to some degree encourage people of all ages to get up and move around.

Today, however, there was a new idea that seemed worth entertaining. Writer Ron Recinto on his Yahoo! blog, "The Lookout," described an effort being spearheaded by the Pediatric Comprehensive Weight Management Center at the University of Michigan. It essentially boils down to using cell phone technology to send teenagers targeted suggestions for keeping control of their weight by avoiding junk food and fitting more physical activity into their day.

Skeptics might argue that the idea simply amounts to a form of high-tech nagging; supporters will point out the message are specifically targeted toward individual teenagers' interests and preferences. While we're pretty sure it won't prove to be an alternative to a gastric sleeve surgery, we're also pretty convinced that almost any idea is worth trying. The studies consistently show that even a few pounds can make a significant difference in health, so if this use of technology can help weight-conscious teens drop only five or ten pounds, they can make a not unimportant difference in young people's health over the long term.

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