Smartphones & the Promotion of Physical Activity

Research Paper Title

Effectiveness of a Smartphone Application to Promote Physical Activity in Primary Care.

Background

Physical inactivity is a major, potentially modifiable, risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Effective, simple, and generalisable interventions that will increase physical activity in populations are needed.

Aim

To evaluate the effectiveness of a smartphone application (app) to increase physical activity in primary care.

Design & Setting

An 8-week, open-label, randomised controlled trial in rural, primary care in the west of Ireland.

Method

Android smartphone users >16 years of age were recruited. All participants were provided with similar physical activity goals and information on the benefits of exercise. The intervention group was provided with a smartphone app and detailed instructions on how to use it to achieve these goals. The primary outcome was change in physical activity, as measured by a daily step count between baseline and follow-up.

Results

A total of 139 patients were referred by their primary care health professional or self-referred. In total, 37 (27%) were screened out and 12 (9%) declined to participate, leaving 90 (65%) patients who were randomised. Of these, 78 provided baseline data (intervention = 37; control = 41) and 77 provided outcome data (intervention = 37; control = 40). The mean daily step count at baseline for intervention and control groups was 4365 and 5138 steps per day respectively. After adjusting, there was evidence of a significant treatment effect (P = 0.009); the difference in mean improvement in daily step count from week 1 to week 8 inclusive was 1029 (95% confidence interval 214 to 1843) steps per day, favouring the intervention. Improvements in physical activity in the intervention group were sustained until the end of the trial.

Conclusion

A simple smartphone app significantly increased physical activity over 8 weeks in a primary care population.

Reference

Glynn, L.G., Hayes, P.S., Casey, M., Glynn, F., Alvarez-Iglesias, A., Newell, J., O’Laighin, G., Heaney, D., O’Donnell, M. & Murphy, A.W. (2014) Effectiveness of a Smartphone Application to Promote Physical Activity in Primary Care. British Journal of General Practice. 64(624), pp.3384-e391.

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