Mobile phone programme encourages exercise to help hearts

26 March 2013

A new mobile phone programme designed to encourage people to exercise has proved successful.

Recent results from a randomized controlled trial showed a mobile phone text programme increased physical activity in people with cardiovascular disease.


“Exercise is the cornerstone of cardiac rehabilitation for people with heart disease,” says Associate Professor Ralph Maddison (left) from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health. “But many of those with heart disease do not undertake sufficient levels of exercise, and so do not realise the benefits.”

“High ownership and use of mobile phones and wireless technologies (such as mHealth), provides the opportunity to improve the delivery of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation,” he says.

A grant from New Zealand’s Health Research Council, has allowed researchers at The University of Auckland to develop and test a mobile phone and internet, delivered exercise programme. The trial involved a group of 177 New Zealand adults with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Half of the people in the study were randomly allocated an automated mobile phone programme of personalized text messages to help them exercise safely on a regular basis, says Dr Maddison. The programme was developed to help individuals participate in moderate to vigorous intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes per day for most days of the week.

Messages included information about how to exercise, (what to do and at what intensity), and provided support to help people overcome barriers to exercise and keep motivated.

As part of the package, people were able to access a website that provided additional information, text, and video messages to increase motivation to exercise. The other half of people involved in the research trial continued with their normal exercise behaviour.

Results showed that people who received the mobile phone intervention spent more time each day in leisure time physical activity and walking, and were more confident to exercise compared to those who did not receive the programme. The people in the intervention also reported greater feelings of general health at six months.

This study was presented by Dr Maddison in a Rapid Communications Poster during the 2013 Annual Meeting and Scientific Session of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) on March 23rd in San Francisco, California. Dr Maddison was on hand to discuss how the intervention was developed and presented the key findings from this trial.

Although this study was presented at a scientific meeting, the data and conclusions reached should be regarded as preliminary, until they were published in a peer-reviewed journal, says Dr Maddison. This research was supported by the Health Research Council (HRC 10/446) and Heart Foundation of New Zealand. (Funding agencies played no role in the study).

For more information contact:

Suzi Phillips 
Media Relations Advisor 
The University of Auckland
 Mob 021 416 396 
Phone +64 9 373 7599 ext 87383