Fitness professionals should consider sending motivational e-mail messages to clients to help them stay on track with their exercise goals. In a study published in the July issue of Health Psychology (2007; 26 , 401–9), researchers found that feedback delivered via e-mail to participants in an exercise program increased short-term adherence as effectively as phone counseling and was potentially more effective than phone counseling in the long term.
Investigators divided 239 healthy, underactive adults into three groups. One group received phone-based feedback; another received print-based feedback via e-mail; and a third—the control group—received general health information that did not include any information specific to exercise or physical activity. After 6 months, participants in the e-mail and phone groups reported 129 and 123 minutes of physical activity per week, respectively. After 12 months, e-mail subjects reported 160 minutes of physical activity, compared with 100 minutes for phone subjects and 90 minutes for the control group.
Reasons for the long-term success of e-mail participants may have included the fact that they could keep hard copies of information for reference throughout he year, whereas phone participants had to develop stronger inner motivation since they didn’t receive direct social support from personal contact with a health educator.
Limitations of the study included the fact that participants were primarily well-educated Caucasian women from a higher socioeconomic background. While scientists tried to recruit a more varied pool of participants, women fitting this profile showed strongest interest in the study.
The study authors suggested that future studies should examine whether combinations of e-mail and phone programs could produce even stronger results and whether use of other delivery channels, such as text-messaging and the Internet, could lead to similar or better outcomes.