BACKGROUND: Older adults are at increased risk of falls, injury, and hospitalization. Maintaining or increasing participation in physical activity during older age can prevent some of the age-related declines in physical functioning that contribute to loss of independence and low reported quality of life. Exercise snacking may overcome some commonly cited barriers to exercise and encourage older adults to engage in muscle strength and balance activity, but the best way to deliver and support this novel format remains unknown.
OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to explore how the novel exercise snacking approach, that is, incorporating short bouts of strength and balance activities into everyday routines, could be supported by technology within a home setting and what types of technologies would be acceptable for older adults who are prefrail.
METHODS: Following a user-centered design process, 2 design workshops (study 1) were conducted first to understand older adults' (n=11; aged 69-89 years) attitudes toward technology aimed at supporting exercise snacking at home and to inform the design of 2 prototypes. Next, based on the findings of study 1, an exploratory pilot study (study 2) was conducted over 1 day with 2 prototypes (n=5; aged 69-80 years) at the participants' homes. Participants were interviewed over the telephone afterward about their experience. Transcripts were analyzed using framework analysis.
RESULTS: The results showed that the participants were positive toward using technology at home to support exercise snacking, but both exercises and technology would need to be simple and match the participants' everyday routines. Workshop discussions (study 1) led to the design of 2 prototypes using a pressure mat to support resistance and balance exercises. The exploratory pilot study (study 2) participants reported the potential in using smart devices to support exercise snacking, but the design of the initial prototypes influenced the participants' attitudes toward them. It also hampered the acceptability of these initial versions and highlighted the challenges in fitting exercise snacking into everyday life.
CONCLUSIONS: Older adults were positive about using technology in their homes to support strength and balance exercise snacking. However, although promising, the initial prototypes require further refinement and optimization before feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy testing. Technologies to support exercise snacking need to be adaptable and personalized to individuals, to ensure that users are snacking on balance and strengthening exercises that are appropriate for them.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Joshua Tucker, who built and programmed the prototypes, and colleagues from the University of Bristol and the Sensor Platform for Healthcare in a Residential Environment (SPHERE) project, who kindly allowed the authors to conduct the workshops in their smart home. This project was funded by GetAMoveOn Network+ through Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant EP/N027299/1.
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- mobile phone
- physical activity
- older adults
- user-centered design
- qualitative research
- Internet of Things