An mHealth App for Supporting Quitters to Manage Cigarette Cravings With Short Bouts of Physical Activity: A Randomized Pilot Feasibility and Acceptability Study
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BACKGROUND: While gains in reducing smoking rates in Finland have been made, prevalence rates are still substantial. Relapse rates among smokers engaged in quit-smoking programs are high. Physical activity has been proposed as one means to help smokers manage cravings. Software and apps on mobile phone and handheld devices offer an opportunity to communicate messages on how to use physical activity to manage cravings as part of quit-smoking programs. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to test the feasibility, acceptability, usability, and preliminary efficacy of an mHealth mobile phone app, Physical activity over Smoking (PhoS), to assist smokers in quitting smoking in a randomized controlled trial. The app was designed to prompt smokers to engage in physical activities to manage their smoking cravings. METHODS: Regular smokers (n=44) attended a group-based behavioral counselling program aimed at promoting physical activity as an additional aid to quit. After quit day, participants were randomly allocated to an intervention (n=25) or to a comparison (n=19) group. Participants in the intervention group were provided with the PhoS app and training on how to use it to assist with relapse prevention. Participants in the comparison condition were provided with generalized relapse prevention training. RESULTS: Some participants reported that the PhoS app was useful in assisting them to successfully manage their cigarette cravings, although compliance across the sample was modest and participants reported low levels of usability. Participants receiving the PhoS app did not report greater abstinence than those who did not receive the app. However, participants receiving the app were more likely to report greater abstinence if they did not use pharmacological support, while those who did not receive the app reported greater abstinence when using pharmacological support. Participants receiving the app reported greater levels of physical activity than those who did not. Results revealed that the app resulted in better retention. CONCLUSIONS: The PhoS app showed some potential to reduce abstinence among participants not using pharmacological therapy and to increase physical activity. However, problems with usability and lack of effects on abstinence raise questions over the app's long-term effectiveness. Future research should prioritize further development of the app to maximize usability and test effects of the intervention independent of quit-smoking programs. TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 55259451; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN55259451 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6cKF2mzEI).
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