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Applying Natural Language Processing to Understand Motivational Profiles for Maintaining Physical Activity After a Mobile App and Accelerometer-Based Intervention: The mPED Randomized Controlled Trial.

  • Author(s): Fukuoka, Yoshimi
  • Lindgren, Teri G
  • Mintz, Yonatan Dov
  • Hooper, Julie
  • Aswani, Anil
  • et al.

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Regular physical activity is associated with reduced risk of chronic illnesses. Despite various types of successful physical activity interventions, maintenance of activity over the long term is extremely challenging.The aims of this original paper are to 1) describe physical activity engagement post intervention, 2) identify motivational profiles using natural language processing (NLP) and clustering techniques in a sample of women who completed the physical activity intervention, and 3) compare sociodemographic and clinical data among these identified cluster groups.In this cross-sectional analysis of 203 women completing a 12-month study exit (telephone) interview in the mobile phone-based physical activity education study were examined. The mobile phone-based physical activity education study was a randomized, controlled trial to test the efficacy of the app and accelerometer intervention and its sustainability over a 9-month period. All subjects returned the accelerometer and stopped accessing the app at the last 9-month research office visit. Physical engagement and motivational profiles were assessed by both closed and open-ended questions, such as "Since your 9-month study visit, has your physical activity been more, less, or about the same (compared to the first 9 months of the study)?" and, "What motivates you the most to be physically active?" NLP and cluster analysis were used to classify motivational profiles. Descriptive statistics were used to compare participants' baseline characteristics among identified groups.Approximately half of the 2 intervention groups (Regular and Plus) reported that they were still wearing an accelerometer and engaging in brisk walking as they were directed during the intervention phases. These numbers in the 2 intervention groups were much higher than the control group (overall P=.01 and P=.003, respectively). Three clusters were identified through NLP and named as the Weight Loss group (n=19), the Illness Prevention group (n=138), and the Health Promotion group (n=46). The Weight Loss group was significantly younger than the Illness Prevention and Health Promotion groups (overall P<.001). The Illness Prevention group had a larger number of Caucasians as compared to the Weight Loss group (P=.001), which was composed mostly of those who identified as African American, Hispanic, or mixed race. Additionally, the Health Promotion group tended to have lower BMI scores compared to the Illness Prevention group (overall P=.02). However, no difference was noted in the baseline moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity level among the 3 groups (overall P>.05).The findings could be relevant to tailoring a physical activity maintenance intervention. Furthermore, the findings from NLP and cluster analysis are useful methods to analyze short free text to differentiate motivational profiles. As more sophisticated NL tools are developed in the future, the potential of NLP application in behavioral research will NCT01280812; (Archived by WebCite at

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