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Real-Time Feedback Inspires Adults to Stick with Exercise

by User Not Found | Aug 17, 2011
Adherence improves greatly when adults track exercise patterns on a PDA or smartphone

INDIANAPOLIS – When it comes to weight loss and exercise adherence, a little feedback goes a long way. A study released this month by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) finds that adults are more likely to stick with their exercise program when they get real-time feedback on their progress.

The study, “Physical Activity Self-Monitoring and Weight Loss: 6-Month Results of the SMART Trial,” was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM’s official scientific journal. The University of Pittsburgh research team led by Molly Conroy, M.D., M.P.H., is among the first to examine the role of physical activity self-monitoring on weight loss and exercise adherence.

“Self-monitoring is important because it makes individuals aware of their current behaviors and encourages them to achieve a certain threshold of physical activity, either the study-specific goals or the current national guidelines for physical activity,” said Conroy, the lead author of the study.

The team presented data on 189 overweight adults at baseline and after six months. Participants were assigned to one of three self-monitoring programs – paper records only, personal digital assistant (PDA) without daily feedback messages, or PDA with daily feedback messages. Feedback messages included “Don’t get disheartened; you still have time to meet your physical activity goals. Hint: Take a walk; it will pay off!” for adults who didn’t meet their exercise goals for the day, or “Super job on the physical activity. Try to repeat this tomorrow” for adults who did meet their exercise goals for the day.

Results suggest that PDAs help adults adhere to their exercise programs. Adults whose PDAs offered feedback messages adhered best to their exercise program, and adherence was linked to weight loss and high physical activity levels. Adults who adhered well to self-monitoring and who met their weekly goals experienced more weight loss after six months than those who didn’t adhere to self-monitoring or meet their weekly goals as often.

“Offering real-time feedback not only allows a person to make adjustments to the exercise program as needed but also holds people accountable to staying on track,” said Conroy. “The feedback message tells the participant that ‘someone’ is paying attention, and this could provide powerful, positive reinforcement for exercising and achieving his or her goals.”

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The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 43, No. 8, pages 1568-1574) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 133 or 127. Visit ACSM online at www.acsm.org.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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