May 7, 2019
Mobile Phone App Designed to Boost Physical Activity in Women Shows Promise
According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, nearly 80% of adults are not meeting the recommended activity level. Women across all age groups are less likely to be physically active than men. The app, which was developed exclusively for the study and is not commercially available, had three main functions, including a pre-programed interactive daily message or video that reinforced what was learned during a beginning counseling session, and a daily activity diary to record progress. The app automatically increased the participants’ activity goals by 20 percent each week to 10,000 steps daily. To improve adherence, participants received an automated message if the app had not been used for three consecutive days. Read more.
The trial involved 210 physically inactive women, ages 25 and 65. They were equally divided into three groups--a control that had no intervention but used a tracking device for the nine months of the trial; a “regular” group that got counseling and used the tracker and the app for three months, then used only the tracker for the remaining six months; and a “plus” group that got counseling and used the tracker and the app for the entire nine months. Unlike most other studies, the researchers measured women’s activity every 60 seconds, every day for nine months, instead of relying on self-reported activity or intermittent activity measured by the tracker.
During the first three months, the tracker showed that, compared to the control group, the women in the regular and plus groups logged about 2,000 steps more per day, equivalent to approximately 1 mile or 20 minutes of walking. They also increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by 18 minutes a day.
In the following six-month maintenance period, however, the regular and plus groups logged about 1,400 steps more than the control group and got in eight more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Researchers said these findings show that the women were able to sustain an impressive level of activity above their starting point. However, continued use of the app by the plus group did not add any extra benefit to help maintain this increased activity, compared to the regular group, which had stopped using the app after the first three months.
“Sustaining any behavior change is difficult in general, and in particular, sustaining the increased physical activity that resulted after the intervention,” Fukuoka said. “Still, it is encouraging to see that 97.6% of women in our trial completed a nine-month visit and kept up part of their increased activity.”
The researchers’ next goal is to refine maintenance strategies that can help maintain those increased levels of activity over a longer period.