Around 23% of adults worldwide are insufficiently active. Wearable devices paired with virtual coaching software could increase physical activity. The effectiveness of 3 minimal contact interventions (paper-based physical activity diaries, activity trackers, and activity trackers coupled with virtual coaching) in increasing physical activity energy expenditure and cardiorespiratory fitness were compared over 12 weeks among inactive adults.
This was an open label, parallel-group RCT. Inactive adults (aged ≥18 years, N=488) were randomized to no intervention (Control; n=121), paper-based diary (Diary; n=124), activity tracker (Activity Band; n=122), or activity tracker plus virtual coaching (Activity Band PLUS; n=121) groups. Coprimary outcomes included 12-week changes in physical activity energy expenditure and fitness (May 2012–January 2014). Analyses were conducted in 2019–2020.
There were no differences between groups overall (physical activity energy expenditure: p=0.114, fitness: p=0.417). However, there was a greater increase in physical activity energy expenditure (4.21 kJ/kg/day, 95% CI=0.42, 8.00) in the Activity Band PLUS group than in the Diary group. There were also greater decreases in BMI and body fat percentage in the Activity Band PLUS group than in the Control group (BMI= −0.24 kg/m2, 95% CI= −0.45, −0.03; body fat= −0.48%, 95% CI= −0.88, −0.08) and in theActivity Band PLUS group than in the Diary group (BMI= −0.30 kg/m2, 95% CI= −0.50, −0.09; body fat= −0.57%, 95% CI= −0.97, −0.17).
Coupling activity trackers with virtual coaching may facilitate increases in physical activity energy expenditure compared with a traditional paper‒based physical activity diary intervention and improve some secondary outcomes compared with a traditional paper‒based physical activity diary intervention or no intervention.
This study is registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov ISRCTN31844443.