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Dutch Young Adults Ratings of Behavior Change Techniques Applied in Mobile Phone Apps to Promote Physical Activity: A Cross-Sectional Survey.

Laura Belmon, Anouk Middelweerd, Saskia J Te Velde, Johannes Brug

JMIR mHealth and uHealth [3:e103] (2015)

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Interventions delivered through new device technology, including mobile phone apps, appear to be an effective method to reach young adults. Previous research indicates that self-efficacy and social support for physical activity and self-regulation behavior change techniques (BCT), such as goal setting, feedback, and self-monitoring, are important for promoting physical activity; however, little is known about evaluations by the target population of BCTs applied to physical activity apps and whether these preferences are associated with individual personality characteristics. This study aimed to explore young adults' opinions regarding BCTs (including self-regulation techniques) applied in mobile phone physical activity apps, and to examine associations between personality characteristics and ratings of BCTs applied in physical activity apps. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey among healthy 18 to 30-year-old adults (N=179). Data on participants' gender, age, height, weight, current education level, living situation, mobile phone use, personality traits, exercise self-efficacy, exercise self-identity, total physical activity level, and whether participants met Dutch physical activity guidelines were collected. Items for rating BCTs applied in physical activity apps were selected from a hierarchical taxonomy for BCTs, and were clustered into three BCT categories according to factor analysis: "goal setting and goal reviewing," "feedback and self-monitoring," and "social support and social comparison." Most participants were female (n=146), highly educated (n=169), physically active, and had high levels of self-efficacy. In general, we observed high ratings of BCTs aimed to increase "goal setting and goal reviewing" and "feedback and self-monitoring," but not for BCTs addressing "social support and social comparison." Only 3 (out of 16 tested) significant associations between personality characteristics and BCTs were observed: "agreeableness" was related to more positive ratings of BCTs addressing "goal setting and goal reviewing" (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.06-2.41), "neuroticism" was related to BCTs addressing "feedback and self-monitoring" (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.58-1.00), and "exercise self-efficacy" was related to a high rating of BCTs addressing "feedback and self-monitoring" (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.02-1.11). No associations were observed between personality characteristics (ie, personality, exercise self-efficacy, exercise self-identity) and participants' ratings of BCTs addressing "social support and social comparison." Young Dutch physically active adults rate self-regulation techniques as most positive and techniques addressing social support as less positive among mobile phone apps that aim to promote physical activity. Such ratings of BCTs differ according to personality traits and exercise self-efficacy. Future research should focus on which behavior change techniques in app-based interventions are most effective to increase physical activity.


An mHealth Intervention Using a Smartphone App to Increase Walking Behavior in Young Adults: A Pilot Study.

Jane Walsh, Teresa Corbett, Michael Hogan, Jim Duggan, Abra McNamara

JMIR mHealth and uHealth [4:e109] (2016)

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Physical inactivity is a growing concern for society and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases. This study aimed to determine the efficacy of the Accupedo-Pro Pedometer mobile phone app intervention, with the goal of increasing daily step counts in young adults. Mobile phone users (n=58) between 17-26 years of age were randomized to one of two conditions (experimental and control). Both groups downloaded an app that recorded their daily step counts. Baseline data were recorded and followed-up at 5 weeks. Both groups were given a daily walking goal of 30 minutes, but the experimental group participants were told the equivalent goal in steps taken, via feedback from the app. The primary outcome was daily step count between baseline and follow-up. A significant time x group interaction effect was observed for daily step counts (P=.04). Both the experimental (P<.001) and control group (P=.03) demonstrated a significant increase in daily step counts, with the experimental group walking an additional 2000 steps per day. The results of this study demonstrate that a mobile phone app can significantly increase physical activity in a young adult sample by setting specific goals, using self-monitoring, and feedback.


Guided, internet-based, rumination-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (i-RFCBT) versus a no-intervention control to prevent depression in high-ruminating young adults, along with an adjunct assessment of the feasibility of unguided i-RFCBT, in the REducing Stress and Preventing Depression trial (RESPOND): study protocol for a phase III randomised controlled trial.

L Cook, E Watkins

Trials [17:1] (2016)

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Depression is a global health challenge. Prevention is highlighted as a priority to reduce its prevalence. Although effective preventive interventions exist, the efficacy and coverage can be improved. One proposed means to increase efficacy is by using interventions to target specific risk factors, such as rumination. Rumination-focused CBT (RFCBT) was developed to specifically target depressive rumination and reduces acute depressive symptoms and relapse for patients with residual depression in a randomised controlled trial. Preliminary findings from a Dutch randomised prevention trial in 251 high-risk 15- to 22-year-old subjects selected with elevated worry and rumination found that both supported internet-RFBCT and group-delivered RFCBT equally reduced depressive symptoms and the onset of depressive cases over a period of 1 year, relative to the no-intervention control. A phase III randomised controlled trial following the Medical Research Council (MRC) Complex Interventions Framework will extend a Dutch trial to the United Kingdom, with the addition of diagnostic interviews, primarily to test whether guided internet-RFCBT reduces the onset of depression relative to a no-intervention control. High-risk young adults (aged 18 to 24 years), selected with elevated worry/rumination and recruited through university and internet advertisement, will be randomised to receive either guided internet-RFCBT, supported by clinical psychologists or mental health paraprofessionals, or a no-intervention control. As an adjunct arm, participants are also randomised to unguided internet-RFCBT self-help to provide an initial test of the feasibility and effect size of this intervention. While participants are also randomised to unguided internet-RFCBT, the trial was designed and powered as a phase III trial comparing guided internet-RFCBT versus a no-intervention control. In the comparison between these two arms, the primary outcomes are as follows: a) onset of major depressive episode over a 12-month period, assessed with a Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnosis at 3 months (post-intervention), 6 months and 15 months after randomisation. The following secondary outcomes will be recorded: the incidence of generalized anxiety disorder, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and levels of worry and rumination, measured at baseline and at the same follow-up intervals. In relation to the pilot investigation of unguided internet-RFCBT (the adjunct intervention arm), we will assess the feasibility and acceptability of the data-collection procedures, levels of attrition, effect size and acceptability of the unguided internet-RFCBT intervention. Widespread implementation is necessary for effective prevention, suggesting that the internet may be a valuable mode of delivery. Previous research suggests that guided internet-RFCBT reduces incidence rates relative to controls. We are also interested in developing and evaluating an unguided version to potentially increase the availability and reduce the costs. Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN12683436 . Date of registration: 27 October 2014.


A Smartphone App to Promote an Active Lifestyle in Lower-Educated Working Young Adults: Development, Usability, Acceptability, and Feasibility Study.

Dorien Simons, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Peter Clarys, Katrien De Cocker, Corneel Vandelanotte, Benedicte Deforche

JMIR mHealth and uHealth [6:e44] (2018)

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Physical activity (PA) levels are problematic in lower-educated working young adults (18-26 years). To promote PA, smartphone apps have great potential, but there is no evidence for their effectiveness in this population. To increase the likelihood that a newly developed app will be effective, formative research and user testing are required. The aim of this study was to describe the development, usability, acceptability, and feasibility of a new theory- and evidence-based smartphone app to promote an active lifestyle in lower-educated working young adults. The new app was developed by applying 4 steps. First, determinants important to promote an active lifestyle in this population were selected. Second, evidence-based behavior change techniques were selected to convert the determinants into practical applications. Third, a new smartphone app was developed. Fourth, volunteers (n=11, both lower and higher educated) tested the app on usability, and lower-educated working young adults (n=16) tested its acceptability and feasibility via (think aloud) interviews, a questionnaire, and Google Analytics. The app was accordingly adapted for the final version. A new Android app, Active Coach, was developed that focused on knowledge, attitude, social support, and self-efficacy (based on outcomes from step 1), and that applied self-regulation techniques (based on outcomes from step 2). The app consists of a 9-week program with personal goals, practical tips, and scientific facts to encourage an active lifestyle. To ensure all-day and automatic self-monitoring of the activity behavior, the Active Coach app works in combination with a wearable activity tracker, the Fitbit Charge. Issues detected by the usability test (eg, text errors, wrong messages) were all fixed. The acceptability and feasibility test showed that participants found the app clear, understandable, and motivating, although some aspects needed to be more personal. By applying a stepwise, user-centered approach that regularly consulted the target group, the new app is adapted to their specific needs and preferences. The Active Coach app was overall positively evaluated by the lower-educated working young adults at the end of the development process.