Gov’t Spends $379K Texting Kids to Take a Walk

Eric Scheiner | August 28, 2013 | 2:28pm EDT
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(AP photo)

( - The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending $379,500 on a study that sends texts to adolescents encouraging them to walk.

The “Txt Me: Texting Motivational Messages Encouraging Adolescent PA” (physical activity) is being conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine. The study began in January of 2011 and will be funded through the end of this year.

“The physical activity to be promoted is walking, which has broad appeal and can be performed as part of usual-day activities,” according to the description of the study.

The NIH grant description says, “This application will test the feasibility of promoting PA to 14-17 year olds using text messages tailored to constructs from Self Determination Theory.”

In the study, different groups of adolescents receive pedometers to measure their steps, as well as weekly prompts for physical activity and motivational text messages encouraging them to walk with varying frequency.

“Promoting PA to adolescents in a manner that is familiar, convenient, and acceptable has the potential to increase PA, thus reducing risk of both obesity and chronic disease, such as certain cancers,” the NIH grant description says. contacted the study’s primary investigator, Dr. Deborah Thompson of the Baylor College of Medicine, to inquire about the study, but she declined to discuss her research or the specific language used in the texts.

When contacted about the "TXT Me" study, the NIH responded, “NIH research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans. Research into unhealthy human behaviors that are estimated to be the proximal cause of more than half of the disease burden in the U.S. will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.”

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