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Chen XS, Changolkar S, Navathe AS, Linn KA, Reh G, Szwartz G, Steier D, Godby S, Balachandran M, Harrison JD, Rareshide CAL, Patel MS. Association between behavioral phenotypes and response to a physical activity intervention using gamification and social incentives: Secondary analysis of the STEP UP randomized clinical trial. PLoS ONE. 2020 Oct 14; 15(10):e0239288.
Participants often vary in their response to behavioral interventions, but methods to identify groups of participants that are more likely to respond are lacking. In this secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial, we used baseline characteristics to group participants into distinct behavioral phenotypes and evaluated differential responses to a physical activity intervention. Latent class analysis was used to segment participants based on baseline participant data including demographics, validated measures of psychosocial variables, and physical activity behavior. The trial included 602 adults from 40 U.S. states with body mass index = 25 who were randomized to control or one of three gamification interventions (supportive, collaborative, or competitive) to increase physical activity. Daily step counts were monitored using a wearable device for a 24-week intervention with 12 weeks of follow-up. The model segmented participants into three classes named for key defining traits: Class 1, extroverted and motivated; Class 2, less active and less social; Class 3, less motivated and at-risk. Adjusted regression models were used to test for differences in intervention response relative to control within each behavioral phenotype. In Class 1, only participants in the competitive arm increased their mean daily steps during the intervention (adjusted difference, 945; 95% CI, 352-1537; P = .002), but it was not sustained during follow-up. In Class 2, participants in all three gamification arms significantly increased their mean daily steps compared to control during the intervention (supportive arm adjusted difference 1172; 95% CI, 363-1980; P = .005; collaborative arm adjusted difference 1119; 95% CI, 319-1919; P = .006; competitive arm adjusted difference 1179; 95% CI, 400-1957; P = .003) and all three had sustained impact during follow-up. In Class 3, none of the interventions had a significant effect on physical activity. Three behavioral phenotypes were identified, each with a different response to the interventions. This approach could be used to better target behavioral interventions to participants that are more likely to respond to them.