Digital tools to support the maintenance of physical activity in people with long-term conditions: a scoping review

Paul Clarkson, Aoife Stephenson, Chloe Grimmett, Katherine Cook, Carol Clark, Paul E. Muckelt, Philip O’Gorman, Zoe Saynor, Jo Adams, Maria Stokes, Suzanne McDonough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Objective: This scoping review aimed to bring together and identify digital tools that support people with one or more long-term conditions to maintain physical activity and describe their components and theoretical underpinnings.

Methods: Searches were conducted in Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Medline, EMBASE, IEEE Xplore, PsycINFO, Scopus, Google Scholar and clinical trial databases, for studies published between 2009 and 2019, across a range of long-term conditions. Screening and data extraction was undertaken by two independent reviewers and the Preferred Reporting Items for Scoping Reviews guidelines informed the review's conduct and reporting.

Results: A total of 38 results were identified from 34 studies, with the majority randomised controlled trials or protocols, with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and obesity the most common long-term conditions. Comorbidities were reported in >50% of studies but did not clearly inform intervention development. Most digital tools were web-browser-based ± wearables/trackers, telerehabilitation tools or gaming devices/components. Mobile device applications and combination short message service/activity trackers/wearables were also identified. Most interventions were supported by a facilitator, often for goal setting/feedback and/or monitoring. Physical activity maintenance outcomes were mostly reported at 9 months or 3 months post-intervention, while theoretical underpinnings were commonly social cognitive theory, the transtheoretical model and the theory of planned behaviour.

Conclusions: This review mapped the literature on a wide range of digital tools and long-term conditions. It identified the increasing use of digital tools, in combination with human support, to help people with long-term conditions, to maintain physical activity, commonly for under a year post-intervention. Clear gaps were the lack of digital tools for multimorbid long-term conditions, longer-term follow-ups, understanding participant's experiences and informs future questions around effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalDigital Health
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2022


  • physical activity maintenance
  • behaviour change
  • Internet
  • chronic
  • digital health
  • multimorbidity


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