AI chatbots can help to boost physical activity, diet, and sleep quality – PsyPost

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New research provides evidence that AI-powered chatbots can help people improve their physical activity, diet, and sleep. Published in npj Digital Medicine, this study presents compelling evidence that chatbots can play a significant role in promoting well-being and healthy living.
Poor diet, insufficient physical activity, excessive sedentary behavior, and inadequate sleep are significant global health concerns. These lifestyle factors contribute to various health problems, including depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancers, and increased mortality rates.

Chatbots, once thought of as simple applications for tasks like ordering food or receiving news updates, have evolved significantly. These AI-driven chatbots are now capable of providing immediate, personalized responses that can help users make healthier choices in their daily lives.
“I was drawn to this topic due to the growing prevalence of chatbots and their potential to positively impact public health. With the increasing use of digital technology in our daily lives, exploring how chatbots can influence lifestyle behaviors, such as physical activity, diet, and sleep, seemed like a relevant and intriguing area of study,” said study author Ben Singh (@BenSinghPhD), a research fellow at the University of South Australia.
The study involved a systematic review and meta-analysis of existing research on chatbot interventions. It brought together data from 19 trials, encompassing a diverse sample of 3,567 participants. These trials examined the effects of chatbots on physical activity, diet, and sleep. The research team employed rigorous methods, including the use of standardized outcome measures and sensitivity analyses to ensure the reliability of their findings.
The researchers found that chatbot interventions demonstrated small-to-moderate effect size improvements in physical activity, diet, and sleep.

Chatbots led to an additional 735 steps per day for participants. This is a significant step toward a more active lifestyle, contributing to overall health and fitness. Participants who interacted with chatbots incorporated an extra serving of fruits and vegetables into their daily diet. This dietary improvement can have a substantial impact on overall health and well-being.
The study also revealed that chatbots can enhance sleep duration and quality. Users enjoyed an extra 45 minutes of sleep each night, contributing to improved sleep patterns and overall health.

“The average person should take away that chatbots have the potential to be effective tools in promoting healthier lifestyle behaviors. Our systematic review and meta-analysis found significant positive effects of chatbot interventions on physical activity, diet, and sleep. This means that individuals can leverage chatbots to support and improve their health habits. However, it’s important to choose the right type of chatbot and consider the specific lifestyle behavior they want to target.”
Chatbots possess unique qualities that make them effective allies in our pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. They excel at generating immediate, personalized responses that prompt users to make better decisions about their everyday behaviors. This level of engagement is crucial in motivating individuals to adopt healthier habits.
Interestingly, the study found that text-based chatbots outperformed voice-based alternatives. For now, text-based communication appears more conducive to achieving positive health outcomes. This finding underscores the versatility of chatbots in catering to users of all ages, dispelling the notion that they are only suitable for tech-savvy individuals.
“One surprising finding was the varying effectiveness of different chatbot types. Text-based and artificial intelligence chatbots outperformed speech/voice chatbots for improving fruit and vegetable consumption. This highlights the importance of tailoring chatbot interventions to specific health goals and selecting the most suitable technology.”
While the potential of chatbots in healthcare is promising, it’s essential to exercise caution. The field of research in this area is still young, and there is a potential for chatbots to provide inappropriate advice. Thus, for the time being, supplementing human coaching with chatbots appears to offer the best of both worlds.
“I’d like to emphasize that chatbots hold promise as a digital health intervention. However, their design, content, and engagement strategies are crucial factors in their success. Researchers and developers should continue working to refine and personalize chatbot interventions to maximize their effectiveness in promoting healthy behaviors. It’s an exciting field with a lot of potential for improving public health and well-being.”
Future research should focus on larger sample sizes, longer-term follow-up studies, and a deeper exploration of the nuances of chatbot interactions.
“A major caveat is that most of the trials included in our study had a low-quality rating, which could introduce bias. Future research should aim for higher methodological quality. Additionally, it’s essential to explore the long-term sustainability of the effects observed in chatbot interventions and investigate potential user engagement issues.”
The study, “Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of chatbots on lifestyle behaviours“, was authored by Ben Singh, Timothy Olds, Jacinta Brinsley, Dot Dumuid, Rosa Virgara, Lisa Matricciani, Amanda Watson, Kimberley Szeto, Emily Eglitis, Aaron Miatke, Catherine E. M. Simpson, Corneel Vandelanotte, and Carol Maher.
PsyPost is a psychology and neuroscience news website dedicated to reporting the latest research on human behavior, cognition, and society. (READ MORE…)

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