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Physical Activity can Be Increased by a Motivating Mail

Simple personalized program delivered by mail is more effective than one-on-one phone counseling. As Americans struggle to become more physically active, simple programs that provide feedback and motivation can play a crucial role in getting people off to a good start.

Researchers found feedback delivered via mail was equally as effective at increasing physical activity in the short-term and potentially more effective long-term than feedback delivered via phone counseling.

The study enrolled 239 healthy, underactive adults into two individualized programs either with telephone-based or print-based feedback for one year. A control group received generic health information with no physical-activity specific information. They then could chose either the print or phone program after one year. Study participants submitted data about their physical activity in personal logs and surveys.

The print and telephone based programs incorporated social cognitive theory and the transtheoretical model both of which emphasize the importance of increasing motivational readiness for physical activity, balancing the pros vs. cons of activity, and developing strategies for becoming and remaining physically active, said Melissa Napolitano, Ph.D,.

Both programs offer a cost-effective way to promote healthy behaviors, such as exercise, Napolitano said.

Feedback, whether delivered via phone by a health educator or via a printed letter, pointed out areas for improvement and recognized successful efforts by the participants.

Researchers designed the program to encourage participants to reach the national guidelines for physical activity at 150 minutes per week. They completed a physical activity log and brief survey each month, and two in person visits. Compensation was provided for each completed activity.

Currently, people can find phone counseling programs through outlets such as their health insurance
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