Cell Phones, Coaching May Jump Start Exercise Routine

Armen Hareyan's picture

Researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center are trying to determine if cell phone messaging and personal coaching will motivate women at risk for breast cancer to exercise.

"Studies show that post-menopausal women who are overweight and don't exercise are at an increased risk for breast cancer," says Electra Paskett, associate director for Population Sciences at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center. "This research will help us determine if women can increase their activity levels - more specifically, walking 10,000 steps a day - by using simple daily reminders and personal coaching."

The Comprehensive Cancer Center is collaborating with other Ohio State departments to lead the Behavior and Exercise for Physical Health Intervention Study (BePHIT). Participants in the study will be assigned to one of the program's two groups to receive either an automated voice message or a voice message and a call from a personal coach.

"We have created daily voicemail messages tied to psychological theories to help participants set goals, overcome obstacles and feel motivated to exercise," says Prabu David, a member of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and project leader of the BePHIT study.

Participants in the personal coaching group will receive additional voicemail messages from their health coach reinforcing the automated message. They also will be able to contact their coach for one-on-one counseling, says David, an associate professor at Ohio State's School of Communication.

The health coaches involved in this study are specifically trained to work with women to help them overcome challenges. The health coaches will work closely with the study team to craft tailored messages that address each participant's challenges with achieving their walking goals.


To measure the success of this 12-week pilot study, participants will be assessed on several outcomes including:

* successful completion of the 12-week program

* number of steps per day taken by the average participant

* adherence to the 10,000 steps-per-day target using a health coach

* level of certain cancer-related biomarkers that could increase with exercise

* differences in the outcomes for those who receive the automated voicemail messages compared to those who receive the automated messages along with calls from a health coach

But even before they start, researchers theorize that human interaction will bring better long-term results.

"We think that individuals who work with a personal coach will be more prone to continue to exercise," Paskett said. "Social support seems to prove effective in other health behaviors, and we want to see if it will work for this population as well."