BACKGROUND: Cardiac rehabilitation participants are encouraged to meet physical activity guidelines to reduce the risk of repeat cardiac events. However, previous studies have found that physical activity levels are low and sedentary behavior is high, both during and after cardiac rehabilitation. There is potential for smartphone apps to be effective in reducing sedentary behavior, although among the few studies that have investigated smartphone apps in cardiac rehabilitation, none targeted sedentary behavior.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims to evaluate the feasibility of a behavioral smartphone app (Vire) and a web-based behavior change program (ToDo-CR) to decrease sedentary behavior in cardiac rehabilitation participants.
METHODS: Using a single-center, pre-post design, participants were recruited by nursing staff on admission to cardiac rehabilitation. All eligible participants installed the Vire app, were given a Fitbit Flex, and received the 6-week ToDo-CR program while attending cardiac rehabilitation. The ToDo-CR program uses personalized analytics to interpret important behavioral aspects (physical activity, variety, and social opportunity) and real-time information for generating and suggesting context-specific actionable microbehavioral alternatives (Do's). Do's were delivered via the app, with participants receiving 14 to 19 Do's during the 6-week intervention period. Outcome measures were collected at 0, 6, and 16 weeks. The assessors were not blinded. Feasibility outcomes included recruitment and follow-up rates, resource requirements, app usability (Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology 2 [UTAUT2] questionnaire), and objectively measured daily minutes of sedentary behavior (ActiGraph) for sample size estimation. Secondary outcomes included functional aerobic capacity (6-min walk test), quality of life (MacNew Heart Disease Health-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire), BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and blood pressure.
RESULTS: Between January and May 2019, 20 participants were recruited consecutively. One-third of people who commenced cardiac rehabilitation were eligible to participate. Other than declining to take part in the study (15/40, 38%), not having a smartphone was a major reason for exclusion (11/40, 28%). Those excluded without a smartphone were significantly older than participants with a smartphone (mean difference 20 [SD 5] years; P<.001). Participants were, on average, aged 54 (SD 13) years, mostly male (17/20, 85%), and working (12/20, 67%). At 6 weeks, 95% (19/20) of participants were assessed, and 60% (12/20) of participants were assessed at 16 weeks. Participants were relatively satisfied with the usability of the app (UTAUT2 questionnaire). Overall, participants spent 11 to 12 hours per day sitting. There was a medium effect size (Cohen d=0.54) for the reduction in sedentary behavior (minutes per day) over 16 weeks.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of a behavioral smartphone app to decrease sitting time appears to be feasible in cardiac rehabilitation. A larger randomized controlled trial is warranted to determine the effectiveness of the app.