Prescribe apps to boost patients' physical activity by 22%, GPs told

A smartphone app that promotes exercise can increase physical activity in patients when paired with clear daily targets and advice, research suggests.

Using a pedometer can encourage more physical activity (Photo: iStock)
Using a pedometer can encourage more physical activity (Photo: iStock)

The study by the National University of Ireland found that patients who were prescribed a pedometer app and given daily step-count targets walked an average of 22% more steps a day after eight weeks on the programme.

The authors said the results suggested a potentially important role for the use of apps in driving healthy behavioural change.

Patients in the study group used the Accupedo-Pro Pedometer app to set a target of 10,000 steps a day and track progress. They were given detailed instructions on how to use the app’s features to achieve this.

A control group, while still given access to the app, were given no instructions and less-defined targets, such as walk for an extra 30 minutes a day.

After the eight-week trial period, patients in the study group were walking over a thousand (1,029) more steps than they had been at the beginning, a 22% increase. Those in the control group failed to show any improvement.

Apps used to motivate patients

The app recorded patients’ daily step count and provided them with various statistics, such as number of calories burnt and achievements earned.

The study authors said the app was chosen due to its ability to motivate, offer realistic goals and provide regular feedback.

They said: ‘It has been suggested that significant improvements in public health in the future are more likely to come from behavioural change, rather than from technological or scientific innovation.

‘The results of this current study would suggest that novel technologies, such as mobile devices and related smartphone apps, may become an important driver for the behavioural-change process.’

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

A total of 77 patients from three primary care centres in North Clare, Ireland, were involved in the study.

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