Research Alert

Background: Physical activity is an integral part of healthy aging; yet, most adults aged ≥65 years are not sufficiently active. Preliminary evidence suggests that web-based interventions with computer-tailored advice and Fitbit activity trackers may be well suited for older adults.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness of Active for Life, a 12-week web-based physical activity intervention with 6 web-based modules of computer-tailored advice to increase physical activity in older Australians.

Methods: Participants were recruited both through the web and offline and were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 trial arms: tailoring+Fitbit, tailoring only, or a wait-list control. The computer-tailored advice was based on either participants’ Fitbit data (tailoring+Fitbit participants) or self-reported physical activity (tailoring-only participants). The main outcome was change in wrist-worn accelerometer (ActiGraph GT9X)–measured moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) from baseline to after the intervention (week 12). The secondary outcomes were change in self-reported physical activity measured by means of the Active Australia Survey at the midintervention point (6 weeks), after the intervention (week 12), and at follow-up (week 24). Participants had a face-to-face meeting at baseline for a demonstration of the intervention and at baseline and week 12 to return the accelerometers. Generalized linear mixed model analyses were conducted with a γ distribution and log link to compare MVPA and self-reported physical activity changes over time within each trial arm and between each of the trial arms.

Results: A total of 243 participants were randomly assigned to tailoring+Fitbit (n=78, 32.1%), tailoring only (n=96, 39.5%), and wait-list control (n=69, 28.4%). Attrition was 28.8% (70/243) at 6 weeks, 31.7% (77/243) at 12 weeks, and 35.4% (86/243) at 24 weeks. No significant overall time by group interaction was observed for MVPA (P=.05). There were no significant within-group changes for MVPA over time in the tailoring+Fitbit group (+3%, 95% CI –24% to 40%) or the tailoring-only group (–4%, 95% CI –24% to 30%); however, a significant decline was seen in the control group (–35%, 95% CI –52% to –11%). The tailoring+Fitbit group participants increased their MVPA 59% (95% CI 6%-138%) more than those in the control group. A significant time by group interaction was observed for self-reported physical activity (P=.02). All groups increased their self-reported physical activity from baseline to week 6, week 12, and week 24, and this increase was greater in the tailoring+Fitbit group than in the control group at 6 weeks (+61%, 95% CI 11%-133%).

Conclusions: A computer-tailored physical activity intervention with Fitbit integration resulted in improved MVPA outcomes in comparison with a control group in older adults. 

Journal Link: Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Journal of Medical Internet Research