Dealing with Childhood Obesity: Passive versus Active Activity Monitoring Approaches for Engaging Individuals in Exercise
Howard, Ayanna M.
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Childhood obesity is a growing health problem. Indicators show that the rate of obesity for children age 12-19 years old has risen from 5% percent to 18% over the last ten years. Strategies to solve this childhood obesity epidemic range from educating children about nutrition to enabling possibilities for physical exercise. These general approaches, although useful, are ineffective when not adapted into the day-to-day activities of children's lives. However, given the growing popularity of mobile devices, an opportunity exists to use these technologies to design health-based applications that empower this target demographic. In the following paper, we compare two methods for engaging individuals in exercise based on passive versus active-encouragement. The passive method utilizes a wearable device that records exercise activities throughout the day whereas the active-encouragement approach utilizes a smartphone device to send encouraging reminders to the user during the day. The preliminary results, obtained with adolescents and young adults, show that for average users, active-encouragement using a smartphone can produce higher activity levels than the passive alternative. This provides the precursory evidence necessary for justifying further evaluations with younger children.