Studies of mHealth physical activity interventions flawed

Though mobile health interventions are effective in promoting physical activity, their degree of validity reported in studies is unclear, finds a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

A systematic literature review of 20 articles, reflecting 15 trials published between 2000 and 2012, was conducted by the authors to "determine the extent to which mHealth intervention research for promoting physical activity (PA) reports on factors that inform generalizability" are useful for research.

Using the RE-AIM (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, and maintenance) framework, the review reveals a recent increase in studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of mHealth interventions for the promotion of physical activity. Yet, quantity, not quality, seems to prevail, the authors argue.

"There is an emergent body of literature reporting on mHealth PA interventions," conclude the study authors. "On average, the studies provide initial evidence that these interventions may have promise in helping participants initiate PA. However, few studies report on key internal (e.g., delivery as intended) or external (e.g., descriptions of participants, settings, and delivery staff) factors. As a result, the degree to which these findings are robust and generalizable cannot be determined." 

According to a recent article in JAMA, mobile app self-monitoring of physical activity and dietary intake among overweight adults participating in a weight loss program are more effective than traditional methods. The study involved a post hoc analysis of a six-month randomized weight loss trial among 96 overweight men and women conducted from 2010 to 2011. The study found that physical activity app users self-monitored exercise more frequently over the six-month study and reported greater intentional physical activity than non-app users.  

To learn more:
- read the study