Background: Efforts to achieve population-wide increases in walking and similar moderate-intensity physical activities potentially can be enhanced through relevant applications of state-of-the-art interactive communication technologies. Yet few systematic efforts to evaluate the efficacy of hand-held computers and similar devices for enhancing physical activity levels have occurred. The purpose of this first-generation study was to evaluate the efficacy of a hand-held computer (i.e., personal digital assistant [PDA]) for increasing moderate intensity or more vigorous (MOD+) physical activity levels over 8 weeks in mid-life and older adults relative to a standard information control arm.
Design: Randomized, controlled 8-week experiment. Data were collected in 2005 and analyzed in 2006-2007.
Setting/participants: Community-based study of 37 healthy, initially underactive adults aged 50 years and older who were randomized and completed the 8-week study (intervention=19, control=18).
Intervention: Participants received an instructional session and a PDA programmed to monitor their physical activity levels twice per day and provide daily and weekly individualized feedback, goal setting, and support. Controls received standard, age-appropriate written physical activity educational materials.
Main outcome measure: Physical activity was assessed via the Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS) questionnaire at baseline and 8 weeks.
Results: Relative to controls, intervention participants reported significantly greater 8-week mean estimated caloric expenditure levels and minutes per week in MOD+ activity (p<0.04). Satisfaction with the PDA was reasonably high in this largely PDA-naive sample.
Conclusions: Results from this first-generation study indicate that hand-held computers may be effective tools for increasing initial physical activity levels among underactive adults.