Family Medicine Publications

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BMC public health





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BACKGROUND: Our objective was to determine the influence of the HealtheSteps™ lifestyle prescription program on physical activity and modifiable risk factors for chronic disease in individuals at risk.

METHODS: One hundred eighteen participants were recruited from 5 sites in Southwestern Ontario, Canada and randomized to either the intervention (HealtheSteps™ program, n = 59) or a wait-list control group (n = 59). The study comprised three phases: an Active Phase (0 to 6 months) consisted of bi-monthly in-person lifestyle coaching with access to a suite of eHealth technology supports (Heathesteps app, telephone coaching and a private HealtheSteps™ social network) followed by a Minimally-Supported Phase I (6 to 12 months), in which in-person coaching was removed, but participants still had access to the full suite of eHealth technology supports. In the final stage, Minimally-Supported Phase II (12 to 18 months), access to the eHealth technology supports was restricted to the HealtheSteps™ app. Assessments were conducted at baseline, 6, 12 and 18 months. The study primary outcome was the 6-month change in average number of steps per day. Secondary outcomes included: self-reported physical activity and sedentary time; self-reported eating habits; weight and body composition measures; blood pressure and health-related quality of life. Data from all participants were analyzed using an intent-to-treat approach. We applied mixed effects models for repeated measurements and adjusted for age, sex, and site in the statistical analyses.

RESULTS: Participants in HealtheSteps™ increased step counts (between-group [95% confidence interval]: 3132 [1969 to 4294], p < 0.001), decreased their sitting time (- 0.08 [- 0.16 to - 0.006], p = 0.03), and improved their overall healthful eating (- 1.5 [- 2.42 to - 0.58], p = 0.002) to a greater extent compared to control at 6 months. Furthermore, exploratory results showed that these individuals maintained these outcomes 12 months later, after a minimally-supported phase; and retained improvements in sedentary time and improved healthful eating after 18 months. No differences in self-reported physical activity, health-related quality of life, weight, waist circumference or blood pressure were observed between groups at 6 months.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that HealtheSteps™ is effective at increasing physical activity (i.e., step counts per day), decreasing weekday sitting time, and improving healthful eating in adults at increased risk for chronic disease after 6 months; however, we did not see change in other risk factors. Nonetheless, the maintenance of these behaviours with minimal support after 12 and even 18 months indicates the promise of HealtheSteps™ for long-term sustainability.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial was registered on April 6, 2015 with (identifier: NCT02413385 ).

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