In combination with wearing a physical activity tracker, researchers found personalized, supervised exercise was linked to better results in exercise performance, weight loss, and other health outcomes among individuals with obesity, compared with unsupervised exercise.
These findings were published in Frontiers in Public Health.
Research shows on-site supervised exercise is linked to superior health outcomes for many conditions, compared with unsupervised exercise. Meanwhile, wearable physical activity trackers are increasing in popularity for weight self-management, despite limited evidence on their efficacy.
Due to the lack of evidence comparing the effectiveness of remotely-supervised exercise with self-directed exercise based on mobile health (mHealth) such as wearable trackers, the authors conducted a study comparing their effectiveness on weight control among individuals residing in Chongqing, China who were overweight or are experiencing obesity.
By the end of follow-up, the nonrandomized controlled clinical study included 31 patients in the intervention group and 28 patients in the control group. Both groups were made up of mostly 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 aged between 18 and 65 years, had a body mass index (BMI) between 24 and 40, had no habit of routine exercise, and were at low to medium risk of cardiocerebrovascular disease. Participants also did not join other exercise programs during the study, and were not on a diet or taking a drug for weight loss.
Participants in the intervention group received 3 core components of management: a personalized exercise prescription, a heartbeat tracker and paired mobile phone app, and access to an online chatroom.
The personalized exercise prescription was based on the individual’s Heart Rate Reserve (HRR), and effective exercise was defined as the heartbeat rate reaching between 40% and 60% of HRR. Participants had to engage in effective exercise at least 3 days per week for 12 weeks, without limitation of exercise type.”
The paired app provided visualized feedback and records of exercise performances to the participants, and exercise data were automatically synchronized to the cloud server and made accessible to the researchers.
The researchers also supervised exercise in the intervention group by checking daily exercise performance, and gave the participants tailored instructions, reminders, and encouragements through the chatroom function as needed.
In the control group, the researchers did not provide this personalized advice, and the participants were blinded and unaware they were treated as the control.
Both the intervention and control groups had the same attrition rate during the 12 weeks of follow-up. However, participants who were supervised experienced better exercise performance, including exercising day, effective exercising day, and rate of effective exercising, compared with participants who were unsupervised.
Mean (SD) weekly exercising day was 3.5 (0.8) in the intervention group and 2.6 (1.0) in the control group.
Weekly effective exercising day was 2.6 (0.6) and 1.5 (0.6), and the rate of effective exercising day 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 = .23).
“Compared with the control group, participants in the intervention group improved their liver function, kidney function, fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, and triglyceride,” the authors also found. “mHealth-based supervised exercise is more effective in health factors improvement than mHealth-based self-directed exercise among overweight and obesity participants.”
According to the authors, in-person exercise supervision is costly and resource-intensive, but remote supervision can be realized through wearable devices and communication technologies with more flexibility and resource-saving.
“Physical activity tracker-based remotely supervised exercise can be introduced into a health and exercise program to enhance the effects of wearable devices-based self-directed exercise 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 clinical controlled study. Front Public Health. Published online August 5, 2022. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2022.895474