Increasing physical activity in older adults using STARFISH, an interactive smartphone application (app); a pilot study

Lorna Paul, Stephen Brewster, Sally Wyke, Angus K. McFadyen, Naveed Sattar, Jason M.R. Gill, Aleksandra Dybus, Cindy M. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Increasing physical activity in older adults has preventative and therapeutic health benefits. We have developed STARFISH, a smartphone application, to increase physical activity. This paper describes the features of STARFISH, presents the views of older users on the acceptability and usability of the app and reports the results of a six week pilot study of the STARFISH app in older adults.

Methods: The operationalisation of the behaviour change techniques (BCTs) within the STARFISH app was mapped against the BCT Taxonomy of Michie et al. Sixteen healthy older adults (eight women and eight men; age 71.1 ± 5.2 years) used the app, in groups of four, for six weeks. Focus groups explored the user experience and objective measure of steps per day recorded.

Results: Participants were very positive about using the STARFISH app, in particular the embedded BCTs of self-monitoring, feedback and social support (in the form of group rewards). Objective step data, available for eight participants, showed that step counts increased by an average of 14% ( p  = 0.077, d  = 0.56).

Conclusion: The STARFISH app was acceptable and straightforward to use for older adults. STARFISH has potential to increase physical activity in older adults; however, a fully powered randomised controlled trial is required.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering
Early online date5 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • physical activity
  • older adults
  • smartphone app
  • telehealth
  • patient behaviour monitoring devices
  • design requirements
  • assistive technology
  • ageing


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