Increasing Effectiveness of a Physical Activity Smartphone Intervention With Positive Suggestions: Randomized Controlled Trial
- Working Paper
Background: Electronic Health (eHealth) interventions have a potential to increase physical activity of their users. However, their effectiveness varies and they often have only short-lasting effects. One possible way to enhance their effectiveness, is increasing positive outcome expectations of the users by giving them positive suggestions regarding the effectiveness of the intervention. It has been shown that when individuals have positive expectations regarding various types of interventions, they tend to benefit from these interventions more. Objective: The main objective of this web-based study was to investigate whether positive suggestions can change the expectations of the participants regarding the effectiveness of a smartphone physical activity intervention and subsequently enhance the number of steps participants take during the intervention. Additionally, we studied if suggestions affect perceived app effectiveness, engagement with the app, self-reported vitality and fatigue of the participants. Methods: A 21-day physical fully automated activity intervention aimed at helping participants to walk more steps. The intervention was delivered via a smartphone-based application (app), that deliver specific tasks to participants (e.g., setting activity goals or looking for social support) and recorded daily step count of the participants. Participants were randomized to either a positive suggestions group (n = 69) or a control group (n = 64). Positive suggestions emphasizing the effectiveness of the intervention were implemented in an online flyer sent to the participants before the intervention. Suggestions were repeated on day 8 and 15 of the intervention via the app. Results: Participants significantly increased their daily step count from baseline compared to 21 days of the intervention (t (107) = -8.62, p < .001) regardless of the suggestions. Participants in the positive suggestions group had more positive expectations regarding the app (B= -1.61, SE= 0.47, p < 0.001) and higher expected engagement with the app (B= 3.80, SE= 0.63, p < .001) compared to the participants in the control group. No effect of suggestions on the step count (B = -22.05, SE = 334.90, p = .95), perceived effectiveness of the app (B= 0.78, SE= 0.69, p= 0.26), engagement with the app (B= 0.78, SE= 0.75, p= 0.29), and vitality (B= 0.01, SE= 0.11, p= 0.95) were found. Positive suggestions decreased the fatigue of participants during the three weeks of the intervention (B= 0.11, SE= 0.02, p< 0.001). Conclusions: Even though the suggestions did not affect the number of daily steps, they increased the positive expectations of the participants and decreased their fatigue. These results indicate that adding positive suggestions to eHealth physical activity interventions might be a promising way to influence subjective, but not objective, outcomes of interventions. Future research should focus on finding ways to strengthen the suggestions as they have a potential to boost effectiveness of eHealth interventions. Clinical Trial: osf.io/cwjes Show more
Journal / seriesJMIR Preprints
Pages / Article No.
SubjectDigital health interventions; physical activity; conversational agent; chatbot; positive psychology (PP1.0 and PP2.0)
Organisational unit03681 - Fleisch, Elgar / Fleisch, Elgar
MoreShow all metadata