Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Internet Res. 2011 Jul 14;13(3):e49. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1770.

Real-time social support through a mobile virtual community to improve healthy behavior in overweight and sedentary adults: a focus group analysis.

Author information

  • 1Institute for Health and Aging, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, United States.



The onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus can be prevented or delayed by lifestyle changes. Communication technologies such as a mobile phone can be used as a means of delivering these lifestyle changes.


The purposes of this analysis were to explore applicability of potential components of a mobile phone-based healthy lifestyle program and to understand motivators and barriers to continued engagement in a mobile phone healthy lifestyle program.


We conducted 6 focus groups (4 female and 2 male groups) in May and June 2010 with 35 focus group participants. The qualitative data were analyzed by 3 researchers using a qualitative description method in an ATLAS.ti software program. Inclusion criteria for enrollment in a focus group were as follows: (1) being aged from 30 to 69 years, (2) speaking and reading English, (3) having a sedentary lifestyle at work or during leisure time (screened by the Brief Physical Activity Survey questionnaire), and (4) having a body mass index (BMI) >25 kg/m(2) (Asian >23 kg/m(2)) based on self-reported weight and height or 5) having a self-reported prediabetic condition.


The mean age was 51 (SD 10.6) years; 54% (n = 19) were white; 71% (n = 25) used a mobile phone at least once a week during the last month prior to the study enrollment; and mean BMI was 32.5 (SD 6.5) kg/m(2). In the qualitative analyses, the following 4 major themes and their subthemes emerged: (1) real-time social support (real-time peer support from participants who are similarly engaged in a diet or physical activity program, and professional support from health care providers or a researcher), (2) tailoring of mobile phone programs (3) self-monitoring and motivation, and (4) potential barriers and sustainability of the program (fear of failing, age and mobile technologies, and loss of interest over time).


Participants from a wide range of age and racial groups expressed interest in a mobile phone-based lifestyle program. Such a program that incorporates the themes that we identified may be able to help motivate participants to increase their physical activity and to improve their diet.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for JMIR Publications Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk