A novel mobile app ("CareFit") to support informal caregivers to undertake regular physical activity from home during and beyond COVID-19 restrictions: co-design and prototype development study

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Abstract

Background: Informal caregivers, or carers (unpaid family members and friends), are instrumental to millions worldwide for the ongoing delivery of health and well-being needs. The risk of crisis points (eg, hospitalizations) for caregivers increases with the absence of physical activity. The COVID-19 pandemic is highly likely to have increased the risk of crisis points for caregivers by increasing the amount of time spent indoors due to shielding and lockdown restrictions. Thus, accessible evidence-based tools to facilitate physical activity for caregivers indoors are urgently needed. Objective: The aim of this study was to co-design and develop a novel mobile app to educate and support carers in the undertaking of regular physical activity at home during and beyond COVID-19 restrictions via integration of the transtheoretical model of behavior change and UK physical activity guidelines. Methods: We co-designed a mobile app, "CareFit," by directly involving caregivers, health care professionals, and social care professionals in the requirements, capturing, and evaluation phases of three Agile Scrum design and development sprints. Seven participants representing multistakeholder views took part in three co-design sessions, each of which was followed by a development sprint. Requirements for CareFit were grounded in a combination of behavioral change science and UK government guidelines for physical activity. Results: Participants identified different barriers and enablers to physical activity, such as a lack of time, recognition of existing activities, and concerns regarding safely undertaking physical activity. Requirements analysis highlighted the importance of simplicity in design and a need to anchor development around the everyday needs of caregivers (eg, easy-To-use video instructions). Our final prototype app integrated guidance for undertaking physical activity at home through educational, physical activity, and communication components. Conclusions: Integrating government guidelines with models of behavioral change into a mobile app to support the physical activity of carers is novel. We found that integrating core physical activity guidelines into a co-designed smartphone app with functionality such as a weekly planner and educational material for users is feasible. This work holds promise to fill the gap of effective physical activity solutions for caregivers both during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Further work is now needed to explore the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of the approach in real-world settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27358
Number of pages42
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume5
Issue number10
Early online date18 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • physical activity
  • android
  • Covid-19
  • intervention
  • co-design
  • exercise
  • app
  • development
  • support
  • caregiver

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