Motivational Texts that Get Us Moving

A recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association looked at whether one's ability to track their activity level while receiving motivational texts affected actual physical activity levels.  Turns out, texting may play a significant role in upping our daily steps.

Researchers at Hopkins enlisted 48 smartphone users from ages 18 to 69 who were also at risk for heart disease.  Each participant received a fitness tracker and were placed into one of three groups - 1) the group that received no activity data and did not receive texts, 2) a group that received their tracking data but did not get texts and 3) a group that got both their tracking data and received texts. 

For those that received texts, smartphone-delivered coaching was sent three times daily and "aimed at individual encouragement and fostering feedback loops by a fully automated, physician-written, theory-based algorithm using real-time activity data and 16 personal factors with a 10,000 steps/day goal."

The result?  Tracking alone didn't up participants' steps, but texts did.  Participants receiving texts increased their daily steps over those not receiving texts (but getting their tracking data) by 2534 and over blinded controls (no tracking data and no texts) by 3376.

This is significant, given the relative ease with which texts can be sent to patients.  Perhaps this should be tried in other areas, like before meal time?  Or right after dinner and before dessert?  And does it matter who sends the texts?  Would be interesting to track whether and how texts can affect our behavior and ultimately health outcomes in other ways (beyond text neck, of course!).