Artificial Intelligence: Your New Best Friend for a Healthier Lifestyle
As we bid farewell to winter and prepare for warmer months, many of us are striving to improve our diet and exercise habits. Surprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) could play a key role in helping us achieve a healthier lifestyle.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of South Australia reveals that chatbots, also known as conversational agents or virtual assistants, can effectively enhance physical activity, diet, and sleep. Published in Nature Digital Medicine, this systematic review and meta-analysis marks the first of its kind.
The Power of Chatbots
The researchers found that chatbots can lead to significant improvements in various aspects of health:
- An extra 735 steps per day
- One additional serving of fruits and vegetables per day
- An additional 45 minutes of sleep per night
Insufficient physical activity, sedentary behavior, poor diet, and inadequate sleep are major global health concerns. These lifestyle factors contribute to conditions such as depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancers, and increased mortality.
Dr. Ben Singh, the lead researcher at UniSA, highlights the potential of AI to revolutionize healthcare delivery. He emphasizes that chatbots have evolved far beyond simple applications like news notifications or Uber orders. They now provide immediate, personalized responses that prompt users to make better decisions regarding their movement, eating habits, and sleep.
Surprisingly, text-based chatbots outperform speech or voice-based AI when it comes to health-related interventions. This suggests that, for now, text-based communication is more effective in achieving positive outcomes.
The study also challenges the belief that chatbots primarily benefit younger, tech-savvy users. The results demonstrate that chatbots are effective across different age groups.
The Blended Approach: Chatbots and Human Coaching
While chatbots offer innovative support for lifestyle-related health issues, Professor Carol Maher from UniSA recommends a blended approach that combines chatbots with human coaching for maximum benefits. She states that chatbots provide personalized and interactive support that may be more engaging and meaningful than other technology-based tools.
Chatbots adapt their advice based on individual responses, habits, and preferences, enhancing motivation and providing tailored guidance. However, caution is necessary as chatbots are still in the early stages of research, and there is potential for them to provide inappropriate advice.
For now, using chatbots as supplements to human coaching can offer the best solution, combining the unique value of a human coach with round-the-clock support from a chatbot. While further research is needed, this study suggests that chatbots have the potential to address modifiable factors in lifestyle diseases such as obesity, thereby relieving pressure on the healthcare system.