Sorry for the brief hiatus! I have been preparing for a vacation with my family and seeing friends from home before they leave to start school again this fall. My most recent two weeks at work have been spent completing the last of my interviews.
In the end, I was able to interview 29 women! I was so impressed with my recruitment turnout, considering that I was aiming for 30 and still have a few women to follow up with. We recruited from former participants in a study at the Exercise and Health Lab, which is a reason why our response was so positive. I also have over 30 completed surveys with data on what types of motivational messages would be the most helpful to women trying to be active during chemotherapy.
What has stood out from my interviews and survey responses is the importance of personalization of a potential exercise program. While I haven’t analyzed my survey data yet, it is hard to determine trends at first glance. In my interviews, some women say that some potential app features would be extremely helpful, while others say that those exact features would be the last thing they would want. It boils down to what we all know at heart: different things work for different people.
What does this call to create a personalized exercise intervention mean for us going forward? Personalized medicine is the future of our healthcare system and promises to increase the effectiveness of drugs and treatment programs. Ideally, we could also apply this same level of care to comprehensive, low-cost, technology-supported physical activity programs. Dr. Phillips and I are interested in how personalized motivational texts can be sent based on the model of Just in Time Adaptive Interventions (JITAIs). Designing a JITAI for breast cancer patients will be difficult enough, yet this is only a small fraction of what our study participants are calling for.
In broad strokes, an individualized yet far-reaching exercise program would have to analyze numerous aspects of an individual’s personality, motivational states, and lifestyle. We would take into consideration factors including demographics, measures of introversion/extraversion, exercise history, and social support networks. We could study how responses to these questions correlate with successful use of various intervention strategies, and then choose the ones that would be most effective for the individual. Taking a JITAIi-like approach, emotional and motivational states could be monitored throughout the day and different intervention strategies could be pushed based on overarching trends as well as momentary needs.
Once I return from my vacation, I will begin analyzing my survey and interview data so that I can determine what would be most effective for the general population. Hopefully what I determine can be helpful to future researchers who want to take this work a step further in order to determine how we can assess the needs of individuals and deliver them the personalized support they need.