Increasing Physical Activity in Mothers Using Video Exercise Groups and Exercise Mobile Apps: Randomized Controlled Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2018 May 18;20(5):e179. doi: 10.2196/jmir.9310.


Background: Women significantly decrease their activity levels in the transition to motherhood. Digital health technologies are low cost, scalable, and can provide an effective delivery mechanism for behavior change. This is the first study that examines the use of videoconferencing and mobile apps to create exercise groups for mothers.

Objective: The aim of the study was to test the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of an individually adaptive and socially supportive physical activity intervention incorporating videoconferencing and mobile apps for mothers.

Methods: The Moms Online Video Exercise Study was an 8-week, 2-armed, Web-based randomized trial comparing the effectiveness of a group exercise intervention with a waitlist control. Healthy mothers with at least 1 child under the age of 12 years were recruited through Facebook and email listservs. Intervention participants joined exercise groups using videoconferencing (Google Hangouts) every morning on weekdays and exercised together in real time, guided by exercise mobile apps (eg, Nike+, Sworkit) of their choice. Waitlist control participants had access to recommended mobile apps and an invitation to join an exercise group after the 8-week study period. Main outcomes assessed included changes in self-reported moderate, vigorous, and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) minutes per week in aggregate and stratified by whether women met Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for sufficient aerobic activity at baseline. Outcomes were measured through self-assessed Web-based questionnaires at baseline and 8 weeks.

Results: The intervention was effective at increasing exercise for inactive women and proved to be feasible and acceptable to all participants. A total of 64 women were randomized, 30 to intervention and 34 to control. Women attended 2.8 sessions per week. There was a strong, but not statistically significant, trend toward increasing moderate, vigorous, and MVPA minutes for all women. As hypothesized, in the prespecified stratum of women who were inactive at baseline (n=51), intervention participants significantly increased their activity by an average of 50 (95% CI 4.0-95.9, P=.03) MVPA minutes per week more than control participants. They had a corresponding statistically significant net increase of 19 (95% CI 3.2-34.8, P=.02) minutes of vigorous activity. Inactive women in the intervention arm also experienced promising reductions in depression, reporting a statistically significant net decrease in their depression score (-3.8, 95% CI -7.0 to -0.6; P=.02).

Conclusions: We found that a group exercise intervention using videoconferencing and mobile apps was a feasible and acceptable way to deliver a physical activity intervention to mothers. The intervention increased physical activity in inactive mothers. Further studies are needed to better establish how long these changes in physical activity can be maintained and whether these findings can be reproduced in a more diverse population.

Trial registration: NCT02805140; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: Internet; exercise; health promotion; mobile applications; mothers; randomized controlled trial; social support; videoconferencing.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mothers
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Video Recording
  • Young Adult

Associated data