The newest weight-loss coach is a mouse-click away, with scores of websites and online newsgroups offering guidance and support to dieters and exercisers.
Some sites are free, offering calorie-counting, nutritional and activity databases to help users keep a grip on just how long they'll need to exercise to burn off the calories they're logging every day. Other sites charge an annual or weekly fee for similar services, along with access to how-to fitness videos and other coaching tools. Some — such as Apex Fitness' popular Bodybugg monitors, heavily marketed through the 24-Hour Fitness club chain — track a user's activities from showering and shopping to a spinning class.
Then there are gaming programs such as Nintendo's Wii Fit, and My Weight Loss Coach. The Wii Fit is a particularly kid-friendly set of hardware — a pressure-sensitive pad that communicates wirelessly with the Wii console — and software activities based on aerobics, strength training and yoga. Do the high-tech programs work better than old school diet-and-exercise regimens? Medical studies suggest that they can — if the participants stick to the program and make behavioral changes in their lives.
A 2006 study of Internet weight loss programs, published in the scientific journal Nature, compared participants in eDiets, a commercial online weight-loss program, with participants in VTrim, a weight-loss program delivered online and led by a therapist.