More sedentary time, regardless of physical activity levels, is associated with greater risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and mortality.
The smartphone-based intervention developed by researchers at The Miriam Hospital in the US can produce short-term reductions in sedentary behaviour that may be effective in improving health.
Dale Bond and Graham Thomas lead researchers and faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, worked with their colleagues to develop a smartphone app to reduce the amount of time obese individuals sit or recline while awake.
The smartphone app, "B-Mobile," was tested in a study of primarily middle-aged women who were obese, although the intervention can be applied to those who are not obese.
The app automatically monitored the time participants spent being sedentary, and after an extended period with no activity, prompted participants via a tone paired with motivational messages to get up and walk around for a few minutes.
Participants received feedback providing encouragement for taking a break and reinforcement when they achieved the walking break goal.
Researchers tested three different approaches to see which was best at reducing the total amount of sedentary time. Even though all three were successful, researchers found it is better to take shorter breaks more often for better health.
Also, while previous interventions have used similar behavioural strategies such as self monitoring and feedback to reduce sedentary behaviour, use of a smartphone allowed these strategies to be easily automated and implemented through the day in any environment, researchers said.
The app performed better than other low-intensity intervention approaches that do not involve intensive face-to-face contact and/or expensive equipment.
"Prompting frequent, short activity breaks may be the most effective way to decrease excessive sedentary time and increase physical activity in individuals who are overweight or obese," Bond concluded.