Real-Time Feedback Helps Adults Stick to Exercise

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Oct 20, 2011

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Are your clients trying to increase their exercise activity? You may want to support them by providing specific daily feedback via technology channels. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2011; 43 [8], 1568–74) reports that overweight adults were more likely to stick to an exercise program when they received real-time feedback on their progress; for example, “Super job on the physical activity. Try to repeat this tomorrow.” Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh wanted to examine the role of physical activity self-monitoring on weight loss and exercise adherence. Molly Conroy, MD, MPH, lead study author said, “Self-monitoring is important because it makes individuals aware of their current behaviors and encourages them to achieve a certain threshold of physical activity, whether it be achieving personal goals or meeting current national guidelines for physical activity.” Study subjects were overweight adults aged 18–59. They were assigned to one of three self-monitoring programs: paper records only, personal digital assistant (PDA) without daily feedback messages, or PDA with daily feedback messages. All participants self-monitored their daily eating and physical activity, took part in group sessions, and set daily dietary goals and weekly physical activity goals. Self-reported physical activity levels were measured at baseline and at 6 months. Results suggested that PDAs helped adults adhere to their exercise programs. Adults whose PDAs offered feedback messages adhered best to their programs, and adherence was linked to weight loss and high physical activity levels. Overweight adults who adhered well to self-monitoring and who met their weekly activity goals achieved more weight loss after 6 months than those who did not adhere to self-monitoring or who did not meet their weekly activity goals. Conroy added, “The feedback message tells the participant that ‘someone’ is paying attention, and this could provide powerful, positive reinforcement for exercising and achieving goals. Since [this] study, more people [have been] using smart phones instead of PDAs. We are looking to using smart-phone technology in our upcoming studies.”

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at