UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Commercial app use linked with sustained physical activity in two Canadian provinces: a 12-month quasi-experimental study Mitchell, Marc; Lau, Erica; White, Lauren; Faulkner, Guy


Background: Top tier commercial physical activity apps rarely undergo peer-reviewed evaluation. Even fewer are assessed beyond six months, the theoretical threshold for behaviour maintenance. The purpose of this study was to examine whether a multi-component commercial app rewarding users with digital incentives for walking was associated with an increase in physical activity over one year. Methods: This 12-month quasi-experimental study was conducted in two Canadian provinces (n = 39,113 participants). Following a two-week baseline period, participants earned digital incentives ($0.04 CAD/day) every day they reached a personalized daily step goal. Mixed-effects models estimated changes in weekly mean daily step count between the baseline period and the last two recorded weeks. Models were fit for several engagement groups and separately by baseline physical activity status within engagement groups. Results: Nearly half of participants (43%) were categorized as physically inactive at baseline (fewer than 5000 daily steps), and 60% engaged with the app for at least six months [‘Regular’ (24–51 weeks of step data) or ‘Committed’ sub-groups (52 weeks)]. Weekly mean daily step count increased for physically inactive users regardless of engagement status (P 

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