Harnessing social dynamics though persuasive technology to promote healthier lifestyle
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In light of current calls by medical professionals to confront the global issue of obesity and related illnesses, we developed a mobile application called STEP UP that monitors physical activity and provides data that can be easily shared within a social network. We then conducted an exploratory, theoretical study based on the theory of reasoned action (TRA) followed by an experimental trial and user study. The purpose of the studies was to explore the effect of persuasive technology on physical activity behavior and to investigate its effectiveness in motivating users to use the technology to be more physically active. The application was found to have a positive effect on the participants and their level of physical activity. They enjoyed using the application and were motivated to walk more, especially when enabled to share their step counts with their friends. The social component of the application clearly enhanced users’ walking experience, as the atmosphere of friendly competition motivated them to walk more. Based on user responses, we conclude that a further enhanced application that includes chat functionality may be even more successful in supporting increased physical activity and thus healthier lifestyle.