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Evaluating differences in the clinical impact of a free online weight loss programme, a resource-intensive commercial weight loss programme and an active control condition: a parallel randomised controlled trial

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posted on 12.12.2019, 14:39 by Aidan Innes, Greg Thomson, Mary Cotter, James KingJames King, Niels Vollaard, Ben Kelly
Background Finding effective intervention strategies to combat rising obesity levels could significantly reduce the burden that obesity and associated non-communicable diseases places on both individuals and the National Health Service. Methods In this parallel randomised-controlled trial, 76 participants who are overweight or obese (50 female) were given free access to a fitness centre for the duration of the 12-week intervention and randomised to one of three interventions. The commercial intervention, the Healthy Weight Programme, (HWP, n=25, 10/15 men/women) consisted of twelve 1-hour nutrition coaching sessions with a nutritionist delivered as a mixture of group and 1 to 1 sessions. In addition, twice-weekly exercise sessions (24 in total) were delivered by personal trainers for 12 weeks. The NHS intervention (n=25, 8/17 men/women) consisted of following an entirely self-managed 12-week online NHS resource. The GYM intervention (n=26, 8/18 men/women) received no guidance or formal intervention. All participants were provided with a gym induction for safety and both the NHS and GYM participants were familiarised with ACSM physical activity guidelines by way of a hand-out. Results The overall follow-up rate was 83%. Body mass was significantly reduced at post-intervention in all groups (HWP: N=18, -5.17±4.22 kg, NHS: N=21 -4.19±5.49 kg; GYM: N=24 - 1.17±3.00 kg; p < 0.001) with greater reductions observed in HWP and NHS groups compared to GYM (p<0.05). Out with body mass and BMI, there were no additional statistically significant time x intervention interaction effects Conclusions This is the first study to evaluate the efficacy of both a free online NHS self-help weight-loss tool and a commercial weight loss programme that provides face-to-face nutritional support and supervised exercise. The findings suggest that both interventions are superior to an active control condition with regard to eliciting short-term weight-loss.


Nuffield Health Charity (Registered Charity Numbers: 205533 in 439 England and Wales and SC041793 in Scotland)



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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BMC Public Health




BioMed Central


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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by BioMed Centralunder the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Dr James King Deposit date: 11 December 2019

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