A telephone reminder!
The Wall Street Journal has the scoop:
The study, conducted by Stanford University, belongs to a growing body of research showing that small amounts of social support, ranging from friends who encourage each other by email to occasional meetings with a fitness counselor, can produce large and lasting gains against one of America's biggest health problems—physical inactivity. Only 48% of Americans say they meet the federal recommendation for exercising half an hour most days of the week, and the actual percentage is believed to be much lower. Exercise researchers estimate that nearly all sedentary people at one time or another have resolved and failed to maintain exercise programs.You can read the entire story at The Wall Street Journal here.
The caller, whether human or computer, asked the participants to recite the amount of exercise they performed during the past week. Participants were then congratulated on any exercise performed, and asked how the level might be increased in the week ahead. When lapses occurred, as they invariably did because of illness, travel or unforeseeable events, the goal was to impress upon participants the importance of resuming the workout as soon as possible. All questions were designed to encourage rather than to scold.
After 12 months, participants receiving calls from a live person were exercising, as a mean, about 178 minutes a week, above government recommendations for 150 minutes a week. That represented a 78% jump from about 100 minutes a week at the start of the study. Exercise levels for the group receiving computerized calls doubled to 157 minutes a week. A control group of participants, who received no phone calls, exercised 118 minutes a week, up 28% from the study's start.
image via Health.com