Wearable apps or devices may prove instrumental to improving exercise levels, according to a joint study by University of Pennsylvania and Boston University medical schools that also suggested family participation can help to increase physical activity.
Researchers focused on applications involving “gamification,” or the inclusion of gaming-oriented features such as reward points and ever-increasing exercise levels, based on the science of behavioral economics, a Penn Medicine release said. Their results of the study were recently published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
The study, titled "Behavioral Economics Framingham Incentive Trial (BE FIT)," compared data from 94 families, including 200 adults, who tracked their daily step numbers with a smartphone or other device. Each participant started with a baseline and set goals to increase output, obtaining performance feedback for 24 weeks.
By observing social incentive components such as collaboration, accountability and peer support, the research team found that families with added gamification aspects achieved higher activity levels than a control group that was not equipped with devices with hose extra features, the release said.
“While many are hopeful that digital health interventions can increase healthy behaviors, there have been few clinical trials demonstrating meaningful differences in community settings,” Dr. Joanne Murabito, associate professor of medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine and senior author of the study, said in the release. “By engaging families in an interactive game-based intervention using activity trackers, we found significant increases in physical activity. This approach is exciting because it has the potential to be scaled more broadly.”