The Feasibility of an Online Wellness Program Based on Group-Exercise and Theory-Based Models of Behavioral Change

Thursday, June 2, 2016
Exhibit Hall
Joseph W Miller, DPT , Division of Physical Therapy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Gabrielle Scronce, DPT , Division of Physical Therapy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

Background: Exercise and self-management strategies empowers individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (IwMS) to improve the quality of their health and limit functional decline.  Previous research demonstrates that both group exercise and online behavioral interventions improve physical activity and exercise self-efficacy in addition to other health-related outcomes.  To the author’s knowledge, no interventions have attempted to develop an online wellness program for IwMS based on behavioral theories and group exercise.

Objectives: The purpose of the capstone research project was to test the feasibility of an online wellness intervention based on behavioral theories, group exercise, and other wellness initiatives involving IwMS. 

Methods: Five individuals with mild to moderate Multiple Sclerosis (MS) were recruited to participate in the four-week online wellness program. The program was conducted through a free online interface which allows group video-calls for up to 10 individuals.  Participants could access the online program remotely from their homes via the internet.  The program consisted of two group exercise and two educational sessions.  The educational sessions focused on theory-based approaches for developing an exercise program.  Exercises for the group exercise sessions were selected from previous research involving IwMS.  Participants were provided with an exercise diary to encourage compliance.  Following the program, feedback regarding the feasibility of the program was collected via phone interview.

Results: Four individuals with moderate MS and one individual with mild MS completed the online program.  Individuals reported subjective improvements in physical therapy and confidence in maintaining an exercise program.  Goal-setting was identified as a mediator to behavioral change.  Participants also reported that they appreciated developing relationships with individuals who were experiencing similar barriers to wellness.

Conclusions: An online wellness program utilizing components from group exercise and theory-based models of behavioral changes is feasible to create and implement for IwMS.  Additional wellness programs can be implemented similarly, including multidisciplinary interventions targeting a variety of IwMS.