Success of web-based intervention in mobilizing inactive patients marginal

A study published this week in the Journal for Medical Internet Research found that motivated inactive individuals can improve their level of physical activity using a website containing tailored advice, though they were only a small segment of the research group.

More than 12,000 sedentary participants were recruited as part of a nationwide eHealth survey, then divided into an intervention group who would have access to the website (6,055 people) and a control group (6,232).

The advice for activity fell into three categories: everyday activity, fitness training, and strength training. Participants over 60, in particular, were advised on the importance of strength training. They were urged to set goals and monitor their progress.

Aside from a page where a physiotherapist answered questions, the site was fully automated. Questionnaires were sent out at three and six month intervals, and a subgroup of 1,190 people underwent health exams after three months.

However, less than 22 percent of the participants logged on to the website once, and only 7 percent logged on frequently. No difference was found between the website and control groups at the three- and six-month follow-ups, according to the study's authors.

By dividing website users into three groups according to their use (no log-on, log-on once, and log-on more than once), however, a significant difference in total and leisure-time physical activity was found, though the follow-up exams found no significant improvements in measures of health and fitness. Among those who logged on to the website, just over 31 percent said it helped them increase their activity levels.

The study emphasized the basic question of how to motivate people to be more active. Among the strategies tried lately: Kaiser members can earn cash by losing weight and keeping it off. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, meanwhile, encourages shoppers to park in the farthest spaces from the mall.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Physiology, Mayo Clinic researchers said that inactivity is a medical condition that should be treated as such. Cleveland Clinic's wellness program for employees, with rules against smoking and a ban on sugared drinks, has been one of the most successful, yet controversial, efforts to keep patients healthy.

To learn more:
- read the research

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