People who spend their days in front of a computer may want to check out some fitness-related websites, according to a study published in the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine in New York. The researchers, led by Dr Bess H. Marcus, professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island, have found that Internet-based exercise programmes worked as well as printed advice in getting sedentary adults to take up regular physical activity.
One year into the study, the Internet users were getting 80-90 minutes of exercise every week. The findings are important, say the authors, because they suggest that millions of sedentary people could be reached through one of the modern conveniences blamed for keeping them chair-bound.
The study included 249 sedentary adults who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. One group used a website developed by researchers to support the participants’ exercise efforts. A second group was provided with links to six websites by professional medical and fitness organizations. The third group received printed material by mail.
Participants in all the groups kept daily activity logs and completed questionnaires designed to keep them on track with their exercise regimens. The difference was that the group using the specially-tailored website got immediate email feedback.
One year later, all three groups were doing well, Marcus and her colleagues found. Those who used the tailored website were getting an average of 90 minutes of exercise per week, as were men and women in the group that received help by mail. Participants who used a website programme they picked out were getting 80 minutes of exercise per week, on an average.
In general, experts recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as brisk walking on most days of the week. According to Marcus’ team, more studies should investigate the power of the Internet to reach the legions of inactive people sitting in front of a computer screen.
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