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Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson, researcher in physiotherapy at Luleå University of Technology. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Technology support lifestyle change in obesity

Published: 3 June 2015

Cooking shows and the constant availability of candy and unhealthy food can make it difficult for those who are obese to change their lifestyle. In the future, people over 55 see an opportunity to use technology to make a sustainable change.

– The technology must be developed together with the user to achieve sustainable changes. It will be a resource in such a way that it is autonomous and personalized for the user, says Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson.

Easy to use

Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson, researcher in physiotherapy at Luleå University of Technology, has studied the expectations of the quality of life with the use of ICTs for people with obesity between 55-75 years. Some results showed that ICT is a resource for improving the quality of life, especially from a future perspective.

– Maybe it was not so surprising because the future perspectives reflect a simplicity of use, and that is what we have to work from, says Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson.

Physical activity is important

Studies have been done through interviews with 16 obese individuals between 55-75 years. They describe a life-long struggle to achieve a lasting change. Support for the change should focus on raising the awareness of a behavior and an inner motivation. To be physically active is an entrance to achieving change, but it must be for the joy and be meaningful.

– Many people relapse at a lifestyle change, but people older than 55 have a strong desire to achieve a sustainable change and they continue the vigilant fight year after year.

Exposure of food and candy

To change a lifestyle is a vulnerable process that requires hard work and a new way of thinking. It is constantly affected by an environment that challenges the process. Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson found in her studies that we live in a social context where there is a challenge for those who have obesity to resist exposure of food, sweets and all the cooking shows on TV.

– It's easy to fall back into their old lifestyle and start comfort eating when feelings such as lack of motivation and stress emerge. It means that shame and guilt emerges as well, which affects the process. They blame themselves for not being able to influence this.

Give individual support

Participants in the studies had a belief that technology could support a change, but current technology needs to adapt to the user. There is a readiness to make a change with the support of ICT, but not with the methods available today, such as count, measure and weigh. It should give individual support where emotions, motivation and physical activity are being developed.

– In my research I have examined the conditions for what needs to be sustained in the long term. Now it is time to work together with users to develop ICT based on the factors that support the person's autonomy, awareness and health. All these factors are important to achieve lasting changes, says Sarianne Wiklund Axelsson.