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Effect of Adding Telephone-Based Brief Coaching to an mHealth App (Stay Strong) for Promoting Physical Activity Among Veterans: Randomized Controlled Trial.

Damschroder LJ, Buis LR, McCant FA, Kim HM, Evans R, Oddone EZ, Bastian LA, Hooks G, Kadri R, White-Clark C, Richardson CR, Gierisch JM. Effect of Adding Telephone-Based Brief Coaching to an mHealth App (Stay Strong) for Promoting Physical Activity Among Veterans: Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of medical Internet research. 2020 Aug 4; 22(8):e19216.

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BACKGROUND: Though maintaining physical conditioning and a healthy weight are requirements of active military duty, many US veterans lose conditioning and rapidly gain weight after discharge from active duty service. Mobile health (mHealth) interventions using wearable devices are appealing to users and can be effective especially with personalized coaching support. We developed Stay Strong, a mobile app tailored to US veterans, to promote physical activity using a wrist-worn physical activity tracker, a Bluetooth-enabled scale, and an app-based dashboard. We tested whether adding personalized coaching components (Stay Strong+Coaching) would improve physical activity compared to Stay Strong alone. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study is to compare 12-month outcomes from Stay Strong alone versus Stay Strong+Coaching. METHODS: Participants (n = 357) were recruited from a national random sample of US veterans of recent wars and randomly assigned to the Stay Strong app alone (n = 179) or Stay Strong+Coaching (n = 178); both programs lasted 12 months. Personalized coaching components for Stay Strong+Coaching comprised of automated in-app motivational messages (3 per week), telephone-based human health coaching (up to 3 calls), and personalized weekly goal setting. All aspects of the enrollment process and program delivery were accomplished virtually for both groups, except for the telephone-based coaching. The primary outcome was change in physical activity at 12 months postbaseline, measured by average weekly Active Minutes, captured by the Fitbit Charge 2 device. Secondary outcomes included changes in step counts, weight, and patient activation. RESULTS: The average age of participants was 39.8 (SD 8.7) years, and 25.2% (90/357) were female. Active Minutes decreased from baseline to 12 months for both groups (P < .001) with no between-group differences at 6 months (P = .82) or 12 months (P = .98). However, at 12 months, many participants in both groups did not record Active Minutes, leading to missing data in 67.0% (120/179) for Stay Strong and 61.8% (110/178) for Stay Strong+Coaching. Average baseline weight for participants in Stay Strong and Stay Strong+Coaching was 214 lbs and 198 lbs, respectively, with no difference at baseline (P = .54) or at 6 months (P = .28) or 12 months (P = .18) postbaseline based on administrative weights, which had lower rates of missing data. Changes in the number of steps recorded and patient activation also did not differ by arm. CONCLUSIONS: Adding personalized health coaching comprised of in-app automated messages, up to 3 coaching calls, plus automated weekly personalized goals, did not improve levels of physical activity compared to using a smartphone app alone. Physical activity in both groups decreased over time. Sustaining long-term adherence and engagement in this mHealth intervention proved difficult; approximately two-thirds of the trial''s 357 participants failed to sync their Fitbit device at 12 months and, thus, were lost to follow-up. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02360293; INTERNATIONAL REGISTERED REPORT IDENTIFIER (IRRID): RR2-10.2196/12526.

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