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Effects of an activity tracker and app intervention to increase physical activity in whole families—the step it up family feasibility study

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posted on 20.10.2020, 00:00 authored by S Schoeppe, Jo SalmonJo Salmon, S L Williams, D Power, S Alley, A L Rebar, M Hayman, M J Duncan, C Vandelanotte
(1) Background: Interventions using activity trackers and smartphone apps have demonstrated their ability to increase physical activity in children and adults. However, they have not been tested in whole families. Further, few family-centered interventions have actively involved both parents and assessed physical activity effects separately for children, mothers and fathers. Objective: To examine the feasibility and short-term effects of an activity tracker and app intervention to increase physical activity in the whole family (children, mothers and fathers). (2) Methods: This was a single-arm feasibility study with pre-post intervention measures. Between 2017–2018, 40 families (58 children aged 6–10 years, 39 mothers, 33 fathers) participated in the 6-week Step it Up Family program in Queensland, Australia. Using commercial activity trackers combined with apps (Garmin Vivofit Jr for children, Vivofit 3 for adults; Garmin Australasia Pty Ltd., Sydney, Australia), the intervention included individual and family-level goal-setting, self-monitoring, performance feedback, family step challenges, family social support and modelling, weekly motivational text messages and an introductory session. Parent surveys were used to assess physical activity effects measured as pre-post intervention changes in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in children, mothers and fathers. Objective Garmin activity tracker data was recorded to assess physical activity levels (steps, active minutes) during the intervention. (3) Results: Thirty-eight families completed the post intervention survey (95% retention). At post intervention, MVPA had increased in children by 58 min/day (boys: 54 min/day, girls: 62 min/day; all p < 0.001). In mothers, MVPA increased by 27 min/day (p < 0.001) and in fathers, it increased by 31 min/day (p < 0.001). The percentage of children meeting Australia’s physical activity guidelines for children (≥60 MVPA min/day) increased from 34% to 89% (p < 0.001). The percentage of mothers and fathers meeting Australia’s physical activity guidelines for adults (≥150 MVPA min/week) increased from 8% to 57% (p < 0.001) in mothers and from 21% to 68% (p < 0.001) in fathers. The percentage of families with ‘at least one child and both parents’ meeting the physical activity guidelines increased from 0% to 41% (p < 0.001). Objective activity tracker data recorded during the intervention showed that the mean (SD) number of active minutes per day in children was 82.1 (17.1). Further, the mean (SD) steps per day was 9590.7 (2425.3) in children, 7397.5 (1954.2) in mothers and 8161.7 (3370.3) in fathers. (4) Conclusions: Acknowledging the uncontrolled study design, the large pre-post changes in MVPA and rather high step counts recorded during the intervention suggest that an activity tracker and app intervention can increase physical activity in whole families. The Step it Up Family program warrants further efficacy testing in a larger, randomized controlled trial.



International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health





Article number



1 - 20




Basel, Switzerland







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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2020, The Author(s)