Abstract: Background: Traditional psychological theories are inadequate to fully leverage the potential of smartphones and improve the effectiveness of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) change interventions. Future interventions need to consider dynamic models taken from other disciplines, such as engineering (eg, control systems). The extent to which such dynamic models have been incorporated in the development of interventions for PA and SB remains unclear.
Objective: This review aims to quantify the number of studies that have used dynamic models to develop smartphone-based interventions to promote PA and reduce SB, describe their features, and evaluate their effectiveness where possible.
Methods: Databases including PubMed, PsycINFO, IEEE Xplore, Cochrane, and Scopus were searched from inception to May 15, 2019, using terms related to mobile health, dynamic models, SB, and PA. The included studies involved the following: PA or SB interventions involving human adults; either developed or evaluated integrated psychological theory with dynamic theories; used smartphones for the intervention delivery; the interventions were adaptive or just-in-time adaptive; included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), pilot RCTs, quasi-experimental, and pre-post study designs; and were published from 2000 onward. Outcomes included general characteristics, dynamic models, theory or construct integration, and measured SB and PA behaviors. Data were synthesized narratively. There was limited scope for meta-analysis because of the variability in the study results.
Results: A total of 1087 publications were screened, with 11 publications describing 8 studies included in the review. All studies targeted PA; 4 also included SB. Social cognitive theory was the major psychological theory upon which the studies were based. Behavioral intervention technology, control systems, computational agent model, exploit-explore strategy, behavioral analytic algorithm, and dynamic decision network were the dynamic models used in the included studies. The effectiveness of quasi-experimental studies involved reduced SB (1 study; P=.08), increased light PA (1 study; P=.002), walking steps (2 studies; P=.06 and P<.001), walking time (1 study; P=.02), moderate-to-vigorous PA (2 studies; P=.08 and P=.81), and nonwalking exercise time (1 study; P=.31). RCT studies showed increased walking steps (1 study; P=.003) and walking time (1 study; P=.06). To measure activity, 5 studies used built-in smartphone sensors (ie, accelerometers), 3 of which used the phone’s GPS, and 3 studies used wearable activity trackers.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review to report on smartphone-based studies to reduce SB and promote PA with a focus on integrated dynamic models. These findings highlight the scarcity of dynamic model–based smartphone studies to reduce SB or promote PA. The limited number of studies that incorporate these models shows promising findings. Future research is required to assess the effectiveness of dynamic models in promoting PA and reducing SB.
Trial Registration: International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) CRD42020139350; https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.php?RecordID=139350.
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