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

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Background: Informal caregivers (unpaid family members and friends) are instrumental to millions across the world for the ongoing delivery of health and wellbeing needs. The risk of crisis points within this population remains high where a lack of physical activity is a contributing factor. COVID-19 has exerted significant additional pressure on this demographic, including spending increased time indoors due to shielding and lockdowns. Acceptable, usable evidence-based tools to support physical activity are urgently needed for this demographic. We explored whether physical activity for caregivers could be supported from within the home, through a novel Android application designed for use during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Objective: To co-design a novel mobile application to support carers to undertake regular physical activity from home during and beyond COVID-19 restrictions.Methods: Co-design (and requirements capturing), and agile design sprints were conducted through multi-stage engagement with a co-design group (carers, health and social care professionals, employers and health and social care professionals). The application was informed by behavioural change science and activity guidelines as set out by the U.K. Government. The 'proof of concept' prototype was designed for use across three weeks within the pandemic.
Results: A core group of seven caregivers and caregiver professionals contributed across three co-design sessions and associated design sprints. Participants raised a number of different barriers and enablers around physical activity including: lack of time, and recognition alongside concerns around safely undertaking activities. Conversations around solutions raised an emphasis on
simplicity in design where video instructions within a home setting were proposed to be suitable and accessible. Our final prototype facilitated guidance for undertaking physical activity from home including education, physical activity and communication elements. More specifically, our app was designed to recognize that guidelines must be broken down into smaller daily tasks where many caregiver tasks are already inherently valuable Conclusions: Combining government guidelines and models of behavioral change into a single prototype application to support physical activity for carers is novel. Simplifying core messages around physical activity guidelines into a smartphone app, with integrated tools for behavioral change is achievable. Such work holds promise to bridge the gap between the caregiver roles and recommendations around physical activity 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
Number of pages42
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Early online date18 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2021


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


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