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AI works best with human personal trainers

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has gained prominence in assisting individuals with their problem-solving capabilities, prompting a growing number of people to turn to AI-powered wellness coaches for assistance in developing exercise routines, monitoring nutrition, and setting weight loss goals.

Yet, despite AI’s capacity to emulate human behavior, recent research1 from Stanford reveals a significant area where these applications may fall short compared to their sentient counterparts. The study demonstrates that a mobile weight loss app, which utilizes AI to analyze personal data and provide personalized advice and encouragement, is more effective when coupled with human interaction.

AI and humans together

The study’s analysis draws upon data from approximately 65,000 users of HealthifyMe, a subscription-based weight loss app catering to individuals in India. HealthifyMe offers two types of plans: one relies solely on AI algorithms to suggest goals and recommend changes in diet and fitness routines, while the other incorporates AI alongside human coaches who can offer more tailored weight loss guidance and provide a compassionate ear.

Combining human coaches with AI yielded superior outcomes. According to the findings, customers guided by human coaches and AI exhibited an average weight loss of around 5 pounds over a three-month period, whereas those solely relying on AI experienced a slightly lower average weight loss of less than 3 pounds.

“The difference is small when considering the overall customer base, but it holds great relative significance, as weight loss is over 74% higher for consumers benefiting from both AI and human coaches,” the researchers explain.

Human interaction

The presence of human interaction showed a notable positive impact on weight loss, according to the findings. On average, individuals relying solely on AI achieved a weight loss of approximately 1.5% of their initial body weight, while those utilizing a combination of AI and human guidance experienced a weight loss of 2.7%.

Notably, women, older individuals, and those with a lower initial body mass index were more inclined to opt for human coaching, resulting in greater weight loss. Moreover, customers who selected human coaching tended to set more ambitious weight loss goals and diligently logged their weight and food intake on a more frequent basis.

The researchers emphasize that AI coaches still have a role to play, as customers do achieve weight loss with their assistance. Furthermore, AI coaches may enhance their effectiveness through further training and refinement over time.

Additionally, customers may feel a heightened sense of accountability for their actions when they engage with a live individual, as rescheduling a phone or video call requires more effort compared to dismissing an AI-generated notification on a smartphone or smartwatch.

Article source: AI Works Best With Human Personal Trainers.

Header image source: bruce mars on Unsplash.


  1. Kapoor, A., Narayanan, S., & Manchanda, P. (2023). Does Access to Human Coaches Lead to More Weight Loss than with AI Coaches Alone? (No. 4070).
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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