University Of Tasmania
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Effects of activity tracker use with health professional support or telephone counseling on maintenance of physical activity and health outcomes in older adults: Randomized controlled trial

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posted on 2023-05-20, 22:37 authored by Katie-Jane Brickwood, Kiran AhujaKiran Ahuja, Greig WatsonGreig Watson, Jane O'BrienJane O'Brien, Andrew WilliamsAndrew Williams

Background: Despite a range of efforts to increase physical activity participation in Australia, inactivity levels in older adults have remained high over recent decades, contributing to increased rates of chronic health conditions. Lifestyle interventions, including telephone counseling (TC), improve physical activity participation and associated health outcomes over the short term; however, ongoing feedback and support is required to maintain these changes. Newer technologies such as wearable activity trackers (ATs) may offer an alternative method for providing ongoing support.

Objective: This study aims to investigate whether newer technologies such as wearable ATs assist in providing ongoing support to maintain physical activity levels and health outcomes.

Methods: Older adults aged >60 years who had just completed a 12-week face-to-face individualized community exercise program in Tasmania, Australia, participated in the study. They were randomized to receive AT, TC, or usual care (UC). All groups received a home exercise program and an optional referral to a community-based exercise program. The AT group also received an AT and text message feedback from an accredited exercise physiologist (AEP). The TC group received phone calls from an AEP throughout the 12-month intervention. The primary outcome was daily steps measured by an ActivPAL (TM) accelerometer at baseline and at 3, 6, and 12 months. Secondary outcome measures included body composition, blood pressure, 10-time sit-to-stand (TTSTS) test, timed up and go test, and cardiorespiratory fitness. This trial was approved by the Tasmanian Health and Medical Human Research Ethics Committee (H0014713).

Results: A total of 117 participants were randomized to the study (AT, n=37; TC, n=38; UC, n=42). At baseline, the participants (75/117, 64.1% female; mean age 72.4 years, SD 6.4) completed an average of 6136 steps (SD 2985) per day. Although there were no significant differences between groups, the TC and AT groups maintained daily step counts (mean difference [MD] -79 steps, 95% CI -823 to 663 steps; P=.81; and MD -588 steps, 95% CI -1359 to 182 steps; P=.09), and UC showed a reduction in daily steps (MD 981 steps, 95% CI -1668 to -294 steps; P=.003) during the 12-month period. Diastolic blood pressure was significantly higher after AT than after UC (MD 5.62 mm Hg, 95% CI 1.30 to 9.94 mm Hg; P=.01), and TTSTS was significantly slower on TC compared with UC (MD 2.36 seconds, 95% CI -0.14 to 4.87 seconds; P=.03).

Conclusions: The use of an AT with AEP support or TC is effective at maintaining daily step count in older adults over a 12-month period, suggesting that wearable ATs are as effective as TC. Further research to investigate which option is more cost-effective would be beneficial.


Publication title

JMIR mHealth and uHealth








School of Health Sciences


JMIR Publications Inc.

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Rights statement

Copyright 2021 Katie-Jane Brickwood, Kiran D.K. Ahuja, Greig Watson, Jane A. O'Brien, Andrew D. Williams. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Telehealth; Allied health therapies (excl. mental health services)

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