The Internet and mobile interventions improve important lifestyle behaviors
People are more likely to adopt heart healthy behaviors when guided and encouraged via the Internet, their cell phones or other devices, according to 23 years of research reviewed in Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
For the study entitled “Information technology and lifestyle: a systematic evaluation of Internet and mobile interventions for improving diet, physical activity, obesity, tobacco, and alcohol use” researchers reviewed 224 studies conducted on generally healthy adults, published between 1990 and 2013. The studies evaluated the effect of using the Internet, mobile phones, personal sensors, or standalone computer software tools to inspire behavioral changes, such as improving diet, increasing physical activity, losing weight, and stopping/reducing tobacco or alcohol use.
Some of the key findings
- Participants in Internet interventions improved their diets, became more active, lost body weight/fat, reduced tobacco use, and cut excessive alcohol use.
- Participants in mobile device interventions (using smartphone apps or receiving text or voicemail messages) increased their physical activity and lost body weight/fat.
Programs that have components such as goal-setting and self-monitoring and use multiple modes of communication with tailored messages tended to be more effective. We also found these programs were more effective if they included some interactions with health care providers,” said Ashkan Afshin, MD, MPH, ScD, lead study author and acting assistant professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Clinicians, in particular in primary care settings, can use such programs to help people improve their lifestyle behaviors and reduce the risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and other NCDs.
The available research is limited because most studies lasted less than six months, providing little information on how effective and sustainable the behavioral changes would be over the long term. In addition, most studies were conducted in high-income countries with volunteers who were generally more highly educated and motivated than the general public.
*Originally published by the American Heart Association on August 31, 2016.