Do digital interventions increase adherence to home exercise rehabilitation? A systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Arch Physiother. 2022 Oct 3;12(1):24. doi: 10.1186/s40945-022-00148-z.


Background: Home exercise regimes are a well-utilised rehabilitation intervention for many conditions; however, adherence to prescribed programmes remains low. Digital interventions are recommended as an adjunct to face-to-face interventions by the National Health Service in the UK and may offer increased exercise adherence, however the evidence for this is conflicting.

Method: A systematic review was undertaken using MEDLINE and CINAHL databases using the PRISMA guidelines. Randomised controlled trials in any clinical population evaluating the adherence to prescribed home exercise interventions with and without additional digital interventions were included. Publication quality was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool.

Results: The search strategy returned a total of 1336 articles, of which 10 randomised controlled trials containing data for 1117 participants were eligible for inclusion. 565 participants were randomised to receive the interventions, and 552 to the control. Seven of the ten trials reported a significant difference in adherence between the control and intervention groups favouring an additional digital intervention. Three trials reported equivalent findings. These three reported longer-term outcomes, suggesting an interaction between adherence and duration of intervention. There was substantial heterogeneity in outcome assessment metrics used across the trials prohibiting formal meta-analysis. This included studies were of low to moderate quality in terms of risk of bias.

Conclusion: The addition of a digital interventions to prescribed home exercise programmes can likely increase exercise adherence in the short term, with longer term effects less certain.

Keywords: Adherence; Digital interventions; Exercise; Physical activity; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review