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Smartphone apps can increase physical activity in primary care patients

Use of simple smartphone apps can increase physical activity in a population of primary care patients, according to a new trial in Ireland.

The researchers randomised 90 participants to the trial, all of whom were aged 16 and over, and were Android smartphone users. Recruitment was via several methods, including referral from primary care and self-referral. All participants received information on the benefits of exercise and set activity goals, and a smartphone app. The intervention group, however, were provided details on how to use the app to achieve exercise goals. The main outcome of the trial was difference in mean daily step count from baseline to follow up (at weeks 2-8).

There was a significant difference in mean improvement from baseline to follow up between the groups, with the intervention group walking an average of 1029 steps more per day compared to the control group – a 22% increase in physical activity, relative to baseline. There was no significant difference in secondary outcomes such as mean systolic blood pressure, mean diastolic blood pressure, mean resting heart rate and BMI between the groups.

The researchers suggest that technologies such as this ‘should be considered a component of any future intervention to promote physical activity in primary care’, but advise that larger RCT’s with longer follow up are required to determine the sustainability of such interventions.

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