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Background: Mobile health (mHealth) is widely used as an innovative approach to delivering physical activity (PA) programs. Users’ adherence to mHealth programs is important to ensure the effectiveness of mHealth-based programs.

Objective: Our primary aim was to review the literature on the methods used to assess adherence, factors that could affect users’ adherence, and the investigation of the association between adherence and health outcomes. Our secondary aim was to develop a framework to understand the role of adherence in influencing the effectiveness of mHealth PA programs.

Methods: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases were searched to identify studies that evaluated the use of mHealth to promote PA in adults aged ≥18 years. We used critical interpretive synthesis methods to summarize the data collected.

Results: In total, 54 papers were included in this review. We identified 31 specific adherence measurement methods, which were summarized into 8 indicators; these indicators were mapped to 4 dimensions: length, breadth, depth, and interaction. Users’ characteristics (5 factors), technology-related factors (12 factors), and contextual factors (1 factor) were reported to have impacts on adherence. The included studies reveal that adherence is significantly associated with intervention outcomes, including health behaviors, psychological indicators, and clinical indicators. A framework was developed based on these review findings.

Conclusions: This study developed an adherence framework linking together the adherence predictors, comprehensive adherence assessment, and clinical effectiveness. This framework could provide evidence for measuring adherence comprehensively and guide further studies on adherence to mHealth-based PA interventions. Future research should validate the utility of this proposed framework.

Journal Link: Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Journal of Medical Internet Research