Using Methods From Computational Decision-making to Predict Nonadherence to Fitness Goals: Protocol for an Observational Study

Type Article

Journal Article


M. McCarthy; L. Zhang; G. Monacelli; T. Ward

Year of publication



JMIR Res Protoc








BACKGROUND: Can methods from computational models of decision-making be used to build a predictive model to identify individuals most likely to be nonadherent to personal fitness goals? Such a model may have significant value in the global battle against obesity. Despite growing awareness of the impact of physical inactivity on human health, sedentary behavior is increasingly linked to premature death in the developed world. The annual impact of sedentary behavior is significant, causing an estimated 2 million deaths. From a global perspective, sedentary behavior is one of the 10 leading causes of mortality and morbidity. Annually, considerable funding and countless public health initiatives are applied to promote physical fitness, with little impact on sustained behavioral change. Predictive models developed from multimodal methodologies combining data from decision-making tasks with contextual insights and objective physical activity data could be used to identify those most likely to abandon their fitness goals. This has the potential to enable development of more targeted support to ensure that those who embark on fitness programs are successful. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study is to determine whether it is possible to use decision-making tasks such as the Iowa Gambling Task to help determine those most likely to abandon their fitness goals. Predictive models built using methods from computational models of decision-making, combining objective data from a fitness tracker with personality traits and modeling from decision-making games delivered via a mobile app, will be used to ascertain whether a predictive algorithm can identify digital personae most likely to be nonadherent to self-determined exercise goals. If it is possible to phenotype these individuals, it may be possible to tailor initiatives to support these individuals to continue exercising. METHODS: This is a siteless study design based on a bring your own device model. A total of 200 healthy adults who are novice exercisers and own a Fitbit (Fitbit Inc) physical activity tracker will be recruited via social media for this study. Participants will provide consent via the study app, which they will download from the Google Play store (Alphabet Inc) or Apple App Store (Apple Inc). They will also provide consent to share their Fitbit data. Necessary demographic information concerning age and sex will be collected as part of the recruitment process. Over 12 months, the scheduled study assessments will be pushed to the subjects to complete. The Iowa Gambling Task will be administered via a web app shared via a URL. RESULTS: Ethics approval was received from Dublin City University in December 2020. At manuscript submission, study recruitment was pending. The expected results will be published in 2022. CONCLUSIONS: It is hoped that the study results will support the development of a predictive model and the study design will inform future research approaches. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT04783298;