Effects of a Gamified, Behavior Change Technique–Based Mobile App on Increasing Physical Activity and Reducing Anxiety in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Feasibility Randomized Controlled Trial

Daehyoung Lee, Georgia C Frey, Donetta J Cothran, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Patrick C Shih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Physical activity (PA) has an impact on physical and mental health in neurotypical populations, and addressing these variables may improve the prevalent burden of anxiety in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Gamified mobile apps using behavior change techniques present a promising way of increasing PA and reducing sedentary time, thus reducing anxiety in adults with ASD. Objective: This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of a gamified and behavior change technique–based mobile app, PuzzleWalk, versus a commercially available app, Google Fit, on increasing PA and reducing sedentary time as an adjunct anxiety treatment for this population. Methods: A total of 24 adults with ASD were assigned to either the PuzzleWalk or Google Fit group for 5 weeks using a covariate-adaptive randomization design. PA and anxiety were assessed over 7 days at 3 different data collection periods (ie, baseline, intervention start, and intervention end) using triaxial accelerometers and the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Group differences in outcome variables were assessed using repeated-measures analysis of covariance, adjusting for age, sex, and BMI. Results: The findings indicated that the PuzzleWalk group spent a significantly longer amount of time on app use compared with the Google Fit group (F2,38=5.07; P=.01; partial η2=0.21), whereas anxiety was unfavorably associated with increases in light PA and decreases in sedentary time after intervention (all P<.05). Conclusions: Further research is needed to clarify the determinants of physical and mental health and their interrelationship in adults with ASD to identify the factors that facilitate the use and adoption of mobile health technologies in these individuals. Despite these mixed results, the small changes in PA or anxiety may be clinically significant for adults with ASD. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05466617; https://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT05466617

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35701
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Indiana University Collaborative Research Grants Program and ACSM Foundation Doctoral Student Research Grant from the American College of Sports Medicine Foundation (19-01155).

Publisher Copyright:
©Daehyoung Lee, Georgia C Frey, Donetta J Cothran, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Patrick C Shih. Originally published in JMIR Formative Research.

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • autism
  • behavior change techniques
  • gamification
  • mental health
  • mHealth
  • mobile app
  • mobile phone
  • physical activity
  • sedentary behavior

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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