Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health Assistant Professor Alice Yan, MD, PhD, and University Recreation Fitness Program Director Sara Luelloff designed an intervention program, 10,000 Steps. The goal is to promote 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity five or more days each week among college students. During the four-week intervention, investigators send tailored text messages to subjects’ cell phones, thereby motivating the students to achieve physical activity goals.
“People perceive college students as a vibrant, active group. Yet, statistics show that almost 60% of them do not meet the minimum requirement for healthy exercise levels. We need a way to reach them and technology serves as that gateway,” said Yan.
Indeed, mHealth, a promising means of delivering health care services, promotes behavior changes with the right prompt, education and feedback in “real time.” The Pew Research Center found that adult’s mobile phone ownership exceeded 90%. In addition, young adult cell phone owners ages 18 to 29 (97%) text universally.
Luelloff distributes free pedometers to the subjects, who receive motivational text messages throughout the day. They log their steps using their cell phones. Incentives include random drawings that recognize active students who maintain a certain level of physical activity. Researchers also acknowledge them on the university’s website and Facebook page.