Abstract / Description of output
Background: There is modest evidence that exercise referral schemes increase physical activity in inactive individuals with chronic health conditions. There is a need to identify additional ways to improve the effects of exercise referral schemes on long-term physical activity.
Objectives: To determine if adding the e-coachER intervention to exercise referral schemes is more clinically effective and cost-effective in increasing physical activity after 1 year than usual exercise referral schemes.
Design: A pragmatic, multicentre, two-arm randomised controlled trial, with a mixed-methods process evaluation and health economic analysis. Participants were allocated in a 1: 1 ratio to either exercise referral schemes plus e-coachER (intervention) or exercise referral schemes alone (control).
Setting: Patients were referred to exercise referral schemes in Plymouth, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Participants: There were 450 participants aged 16-74 years, with a body mass index of 30-40 kg/m2, with hypertension, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, lower limb osteoarthritis or a current/recent history of treatment for depression, who were also inactive, contactable via e-mail and internet users.
Intervention: E-coachER was designed to augment exercise referral schemes. Participants received a pedometer and fridge magnet with physical activity recording sheets, and a user guide to access the web-based support in the form of seven 'steps to health'. e-coachER aimed to build the use of behavioural skills (e.g. self-monitoring) while strengthening favourable beliefs in the importance of physical activity, competence, autonomy in physical activity choices and relatedness. All participants were referred to a standard exercise referral scheme.
Primary outcome measure: Minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity in≥10-minute bouts measured by an accelerometer over 1 week at 12 months, worn≥16 hours per day for≥4 days including≥1 weekend day.
Secondary outcomes: Other accelerometer-derived physical activity measures, self-reported physical activity, exercise referral scheme attendance and EuroQol-5 Dimensions, five-level version, and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale scores were collected at 4 and 12 months post randomisation.
Results: Participants had a mean body mass index of 32.6 (standard deviation) 4.4 kg/m2, were referred primarily for weight loss and were mostly confident self-rated information technology users. Primary outcome analysis involving those with usable data showed a weak indicative effect in favour of the intervention group (n=108) compared with the control group (n=124); 11.8 weekly minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity (95% confidence interval-2.1 to 26.0 minutes; p=0.10). Sixty-four per cent of intervention participants logged on at least once; they gave generally positive feedback on the web-based support. The intervention had no effect on other physical activity outcomes, exercise referral scheme attendance (78% in the control group vs. 75% in the intervention group) or EuroQol-5 Dimensions, five-level version, or Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale scores, but did enhance a number of process outcomes (i.e. confidence, importance and competence) compared with the control group at 4 months, but not at 12 months. At 12 months, the intervention group incurred an additional mean cost of £439 (95% confidence interval -£182 to £1060) compared with the control group, but generated more quality-adjusted life-years (mean 0.026, 95% confidence interval 0.013 to 0.040), with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of an additional £16,885 per quality-adjusted life-year.
Limitations: A significant proportion (46%) of participants were not included in the primary analysis because of study withdrawal and insufficient device wear-time, so the results must be interpreted with caution. The regression model fit for the primary outcome was poor because of the considerable proportion of participants [142/243 (58%)] who recorded no instances of≥10-minute bouts of moderate and vigorous physical activity at 12 months post randomisation.
Future work: The design and rigorous evaluation of cost-effective and scalable ways to increase exercise referral scheme uptake and maintenance of moderate and vigorous physical activity are needed among patients with chronic conditions.
Conclusions: Adding e-coachER to usual exercise referral schemes had only a weak indicative effect on long-term rigorously defined, objectively assessed moderate and vigorous physical activity. The provision of the e-coachER support package led to an additional cost and has a 63% probability of being cost-effective based on the UK threshold of £30,000 per quality-adjusted life-year. The intervention did improve some process outcomes as specified in our logic model.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN15644451.