Nasseri NN, Ghezelbash E, Zhai Y, Patra S, Riemann-Lorenz K, Heesen C, Rahn AC, Stellmann JP

Background: People with chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (CPMS) have limited options in medical treatment. Enhancing physical activity (PA) might promote neuroregeneration in multiple sclerosis (MS) and positively influence disability, thus providing an alternative to medical treatment. Previous studies indicate that evidence-based patient information (EBPI) is essential for inducing behavioral change, e.g. enhancing PA. Objective: To investigate feasibility of a smartphone app providing EBPI about the benefit of PA and a simple activity feedback to enhance PA in people with CPMS in a pilot randomized controlled trial over 3 months. Methods: Thirty-eight people with CPMS (mean age 51 years, median Expanded Disability Status Scale 4.0) were 1:1 randomized into either a control group (n = 20) or an intervention group (n = 18). The intervention group received access to a multimedia EBPI app including activity feedback, texts, figures and videos. In the control group, participants received a leaflet with unspecific information about exercising in general. The EPBI itself was designed based on a systematic review. At baseline and after 3 months, all participants underwent clinical performance tests, filled in questionnaires and received an activity monitor (Actigraph®) for 7 days. The primary endpoint was the rate of responders defined as participants with a 20% increase of physical acitivity (time of moderate or vigiorous PA-MVPA) or 20% increase of the number of steps, both assessed with the activity monitor. As secondary endpoints, we compared accelerometry, performance and questionnaires adjusted for baseline measurments between the groups (ANCOVA). Moreover, we used questionnaires to compare knowledge about exercise (activity requiring physical effort, carried out to improve or improve health and fitness) in MS, usability of the app in general and motivation towards a more active lifestyle after 3 months in both groups. Results: The groups showed significant differences in disease duration and PA according to the Godin-Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire at baseline. After 3 months, we detected no difference in the rate of responders, which was an overall 22%. However, MVPA significantly increased in both groups (p < 0.001) and the intervention group tended to have a higher motivation towards a more active lifestyle (Cohens D = 0.7, p = 0.09) as measured by the questionnaire. Reponses also showed, that participants appreciated the app but claimed a lack of interactivity as a short-coming. Conclusion: Just providing information in a multimedia smartphone app did not enhance physical activitiy more than a simple leaflet in this small pilot trial in CPMS. However, the group of app users tended to have a higher motivation towards a more active lifestyle. Overall, the concept of a smartphone app to support an active lifestyle in MS is highly appreciated by participants. 

PeerJ. 2020 Jun 23;8:e9303

Link to Pubmed