Can motivational text messages inspire people to exercise?
No, don’t LOL.
A group of Latino adults almost quadrupled their exercise levels after receiving daily motivational texts, according to research published this week by Kansas researchers in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Something so straightforward that we often do daily — texting — can actually motivate people to exercise,” said Dr. Tracie Collins, a professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. “That’s exciting to me.”
Researchers sent daily messages to 11 Latino adults about the benefits of exercise, such as “reduces blood sugar levels” and “reduces anxiety” and “improves blood flow to the brain.”
Texting usage among Latinos is high, regardless of economic status, and chronic diseases related to inactivity are much more common in this group. The 11 participants had at least one risk factor for developing clogged arteries and described themselves as wanting to exercise more.
Six weeks later, 10 of 11 participants had increased their exercise quotas from 56 minutes to 202 minutes per week.
While the results might translate to other populations, the researchers were encouraged by the success even in an admittedly small study sample of Hispanic adults.
A University of Minnesota expert in health care communications said other forms of contact — picking up the phone or logging on to e-mail — require more mental energy.
And after a busy day, “we don’t like to think a lot,” said Rebekah Nagler, a U assistant professor in journalism and mass communications, who wasn’t involved with the study.
Texting, by comparison, is simple and immediate — so the messages have a better chance of sinking in, especially if they communicate what people are thinking anyway.
“These texts are not meant to persuade, they’re meant to cue people to action based on what they already know,” Nagler said.
Collins, from the University of Kansas, said texts are “less onerous” and that their success in this study provides important proof for medical clinics or health programs that might one day use texting to motivate people to work out.