This shows a robot and a cell phone.
Dr. Ben Singh says the findings highlight the potential of artificial intelligence to revolutionize health care delivery. Credit: Neuroscience News

Embrace Wellness with AI: Chatbots Boosting Exercise, Diet, and Sleep Quality

Summary: Researchers found artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots can significantly enhance physical activity, diet, and sleep patterns.

The study, the first systematic review and meta-analysis of its kind, shows that chatbots can motivate individuals to increase their daily step count, consume more fruits and vegetables, and improve sleep duration and quality.

While caution is needed due to the young nature of this research field, the study suggests that chatbots could supplement human coaching, offering round-the-clock support for a healthier lifestyle.

Key Facts:

  1. AI chatbots led to an increase in daily steps by 735, one additional serving of fruit and vegetables per day, and an extra 45 minutes of sleep per night.
  2. Text-based chatbots were found to be more effective than speech or voice-based AI in promoting positive health outcomes.
  3. The effectiveness of chatbots was observed across different age groups, challenging the assumption that they are beneficial only for younger, tech-savvy users.

Source: University of South Australia

As we start to edge out of winter, improving our diet and boosting our exercise start to appear on our agenda. But, when it comes to encouraging a healthier lifestyle, it may surprise you that artificial intelligence could be your best friend.

Now, in a first systematic review and meta-analysis of its kind, researchers at the University of South Australia show that chatbots are an effective tool to significantly improve physical activity, diet and sleep, in a step to get ready for the warmer months ahead.

Published in npj Digital Medicine, the study found that chatbots—otherwise known as conversational agents or virtual assistants—can quickly and capably support you to increase your daily steps, add extra fruits and vegetables to your diet, and even improve sleep duration and quality.

Specifically, chatbots led to:

  • An extra 735 steps per day,
  • one additional serving of fruit and vegetables per day, and
  • An additional 45 mins of sleep per night.

Insufficient physical activity, excessive sedentary behavior, poor diet and poor sleep are major global health issues and are among the leading modifiable causes of depression, anxiety and chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancers and increased mortality.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr. Ben Singh says the findings highlight the potential of artificial intelligence to revolutionize health care delivery.

“When we think of chatbots, we often think of simple applications such as daily news notifications or Uber orders. But in recent years, this technology has advanced to the point where it can sometimes be hard to determine whether you are chatting to a machine, or a real person,” Dr. Singh says.

“For health, this capability presents tremendous opportunities for chatbots to promote effective interventions that support well-being and a healthy lifestyle.

“Their appeal lies in the way that they can generate immediate, appealing, and personalized responses, which prompt users to make better decisions about their everyday movement, eating habits and sleep.

“Interestingly, we found that text-based chatbots are more effective than speech or voice-based AI, which suggests that, at least for the time being, text-based communication is more conducive to achieving positive outcomes in health-related interventions.

Our study found chatbots were effective across different age groups, dispelling the notion that they are useful only for younger, tech-savvy users.”

Senior researcher, UniSA’s Professor Carol Maher, emphasizes that while chatbots present an innovative approach to lifestyle-related health issues, a blended approach of chatbots and human coaching could be the most beneficial.

“Chatbots offer personalized and interactive lifestyle support, that may be more engaging and meaningful to users than other tech-based lifestyle tools.” Prof Maher says.

“They adapt to individual user’s needs, tailoring their advice based on the user’s responses, habits and preferences. The level of personalization may lead to more effective motivation and advice.”

However, caution is also needed.

“This field of research is young, and there is potential for chatbots to give inappropriate advice. For now, using chatbots to supplement human coaching, could be the best solution, offering the best of both worlds—retaining the unique value of a human coach, combined with round-the-clock support from a chatbot.

“While more research is needed, this study suggests that chatbots could help address certain modifiable factors in lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, alleviating pressure on our health system.”

About this AI, exercise, diet, and health research news

Author: Ben Singh
Source: University of South Australia
Contact: Ben Singh – University of South Australia
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of chatbots on lifestyle behaviours” by Ben Singh et al. npj Digital Medicine


Systematic review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of chatbots on lifestyle behaviours

Chatbots (also known as conversational agents and virtual assistants) offer the potential to deliver healthcare in an efficient, appealing and personalised manner. The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the efficacy of chatbot interventions designed to improve physical activity, diet and sleep.

Electronic databases were searched for randomised and non-randomised controlled trials, and pre-post trials that evaluated chatbot interventions targeting physical activity, diet and/or sleep, published before 1 September 2022.

Outcomes were total physical activity, steps, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep quality and sleep duration. Standardised mean differences (SMD) were calculated to compare intervention effects.

Subgroup analyses were conducted to assess chatbot type, intervention type, duration, output and use of artificial intelligence. Risk of bias was assessed using the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment tool.

Nineteen trials were included. Sample sizes ranged between 25–958, and mean participant age ranged between 9–71 years. Most interventions (n = 15, 79%) targeted physical activity, and most trials had a low-quality rating (n = 14, 74%). Meta-analysis results showed significant effects (all p < 0.05) of chatbots for increasing total physical activity (SMD = 0.28 [95% CI = 0.16, 0.40]), daily steps (SMD = 0.28 [95% CI = 0.17, 0.39]), MVPA (SMD = 0.53 [95% CI = 0.24, 0.83]), fruit and vegetable consumption (SMD = 0.59 [95% CI = 0.25, 0.93]), sleep duration (SMD = 0.44 [95% CI = 0.32, 0.55]) and sleep quality (SMD = 0.50 [95% CI = 0.09, 0.90]).

Subgroup analyses showed that text-based, and artificial intelligence chatbots were more efficacious than speech/voice chatbots for fruit and vegetable consumption, and multicomponent interventions were more efficacious than chatbot-only interventions for sleep duration and sleep quality (all p < 0.05).

Findings from this systematic review and meta-analysis indicate that chatbot interventions are efficacious for increasing physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep duration and sleep quality.

Chatbot interventions were efficacious across a range of populations and age groups, with both short- and longer-term interventions, and chatbot only and multicomponent interventions being efficacious.

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