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Hand-held computers prod older adults to exercise more, Stanford study shows
Date:2/5/2008

STANFORD, Calif. - Today's younger generation may reckon that "ne'er the twain shall meet" where technology and their elders are concerned. However, ongoing research by Abby King, PhD, professor of health research and policy and of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, appears to be gradually dispelling that notion.

In a study that appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, King showed that specially programmed PDAs, or personal digital assistants, can prod middle-aged and older Americans - the most sedentary segment of the U.S. population - into increasing their physical activity levels. This first-generation study follows on the heels of King's research report in the December issue of Health Psychology, in which she showed that automated computer calls were almost as effective as live health educators in coaxing people previously less active to get more of a spring in their step.

King and colleagues feel that developing approaches to help people increase their exercise frequency, while taking into account an individual's schedule and environment, is particularly important.

"Portable computer devices are useful because they can be carried around throughout a person's day," King said. "Such devices represent one kind of strategy for being able to provide individuals with the help and support they need, in a convenient, real-time context."

The researchers invited the public to participate in this new study through local mass-media outlets, like the Palo Alto Daily News and the San Jose Mercury News. Out of 69 callers who were screened for eligibility, 37 were invited to be study participants and randomly assigned to an eight-week program in which they either received a Dell Axim X5 PDA, or traditional handouts related to physical activity.

"Then we let 'em roll," King said.

The Dell Axim X5, chosen for its large-sized, easy-to-read screen and good contrast,
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Contact: Susan Ipaktchian
susani@stanford.edu
650-725-5375
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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