Wearing a physical activity tracker and receiving personalized exercise feedback was linked to better physical performance, weight loss and other health outcomes in obese people.
In combination with wearing a physical activity tracker, researchers found that personalized and supervised exercise was linked to better physical performance, weight loss and other health outcomes in obese people, compared to unsupervised exercise.
These findings were published in Frontiers in public health.
Research shows that on-site supervised exercise is linked to superior health outcomes for many conditions, compared to unsupervised exercise. Meanwhile, wearable fitness trackers are gaining popularity for weight self-management, despite limited evidence of their effectiveness.
Due to the lack of evidence comparing the effectiveness of remotely supervised exercise with mHealth (mHealth)-based self-directed exercise such as wearable trackers, the authors conducted a study comparing their effectiveness on weight control in people residing in Chongqing, China, who were overweight or suffered from obesity.
At the end of follow-up, the non-randomized controlled clinical study included 31 patients in the intervention group and 28 patients in the control group. Both groups were composed mainly of women, with a mean (SD) age of 38.3 (8.5) years in the intervention group and 40.8 (8.7) years in the control group.
All participants were between the ages of 18 and 65, had a body mass index (BMI) between 24 and 40, were not used to exercising routinely, and were at low to moderate risk of cardio disease -cerebrovascular. The participants also did not participate in any other exercise programs during the study and were not on a diet or taking medication for weight loss.
Participants in the intervention group received 3 basic elements of management: a personalized exercise prescription, heart rate monitoring and a paired mobile phone app, and access to an online chat room.
The personalized exercise prescription was based on the individual’s heart rate reserve (HRR), and effective exercise was defined as the heart rate reaching between 40% and 60% of HRR. Participants were required to engage in effective exercise at least 3 days per week for 12 weeks, with no limitation on the type of exercise.
The paired app provided visualized feedback and recordings of exercise performance to participants, and exercise data was automatically synced to the cloud server and made accessible to researchers.
The researchers also supervised exercise in the intervention group by checking daily exercise performance and gave participants personalized instructions, reminders and encouragement via the chat function as needed.
In the control group, the researchers did not provide this personalized advice, and the participants were blinded and unaware that they were being treated like the control.
The intervention and control groups had the same attrition rate over the 12 weeks of follow-up. However, supervised participants achieved better physical performance, including exercise day, effective exercise day, and effective exercise rate, compared to unsupervised participants.
The mean (SD) weekly exercise day was 3.5 (0.8) in the intervention group and 2.6 (1.0) in the control group.
The weekly effective exercise day was 2.6 (0.6) and 1.5 (0.6), and the effective exercise day rate was 74.6% (11.1%) and 60 .0% (11.7%) between the intervention and control groups, respectively.
Additionally, mean weight loss was -2.7 (2.8) kg in the intervention group and -2.0 (2.9) kg in the control group (P = 0.23).
“Compared to the control group, participants in the intervention group had improved liver function, kidney function, fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglycerides,” the authors also found. “Supervised mHealth-based exercise is more effective in improving health factors than self-directed mHealth-based exercise in overweight and obese participants.”
According to the authors, in-person exercise supervision is costly and resource-intensive, but remote supervision can be achieved through portable devices and communication technologies with more flexibility and resource saving.
“Remotely supervised exercise based on physical activity tracking can be introduced into a health and exercise program to improve the effects of self-directed exercise based on wearable devices for overweight and obesity” , they concluded.
Hu Y, Zhang Y, Qi X, et al. Supervised mHeath exercise improves health factors more than self-directed mHealth exercise: a controlled clinical study. Public Health Front. Published online August 5, 2022. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2022.895474