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Social incentives to encourage physical activity and understand predictors (STEP UP): Design and rationale of a randomized trial among overweight and obese adults across the United States.

Harrison JD, Jones JM, Small DS, Rareshide CAL, Szwartz G, Steier D, Guszcza J, Kalra P, Torio B, Reh G, Hilbert V, Patel MS. Social incentives to encourage physical activity and understand predictors (STEP UP): Design and rationale of a randomized trial among overweight and obese adults across the United States. Contemporary clinical trials. 2019 May 1; 80:55-60.

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Less than half of adults in the United States (US) obtain the recommended level of physical activity. Social incentives, the influences that impact individuals to adjust their behaviors based on social ties or connections, are ubiquitous and could be leveraged within gamification interventions to provide a scalable, low-cost approach to increase engagement. Gamification, or the use of game design in non-game situations, is commonly used in the real world, but in most cases has not appropriately leveraged principles from theories of health behavior. METHODS: We are conducting a four-arm, randomized, controlled trial of 602 overweight and obese adults to evaluate the effectiveness of gamification interventions that leverage insights from behavioral economics to enhance either supportive, competitive, or collaborative social incentives. Daily step counts are monitored using wearable devices that transmit data to the study platform. Participants established a baseline step count, selected a step goal increase, and then were randomly assigned to control or one of three interventions for a 24-week intervention and 12-week follow-up period. To understand predictors of strong or poor performance, we had participants complete validated questionnaires on a range of areas including their personality, risk preferences, social network, and habits relating to physical activity, eating, and sleep. Trial enrollment was conducted in partnership with Deloitte Consulting and included employees from 40 states across the US. CONCLUSION: The STEP UP Trial represents a scalable model and interventions found to be effective could be deployed more broadly to increase physical activity. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT03311230.





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