A Smartphone Physical Activity App for Patients in Alcohol Treatment: Single-Arm Feasibility Trial

Ana M. Abrantes, Lidia Z. Meshesha, Claire E. Blevins, Cynthia L. Battle, Clifford Lindsay, Eliza Marsh, Sage Feltus, Matthew Buman, Emmanuel Agu, Michael Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a significant public health concern worldwide. Alcohol consumption is a leading cause of death in the United States and has a significant negative impact on individuals and society. Relapse following treatment is common, and adjunct intervention approaches to improve alcohol outcomes during early recovery continue to be critical. Interventions focused on increasing physical activity (PA) may improve AUD treatment outcomes. Given the ubiquity of smartphones and activity trackers, integrating this technology into a mobile app may be a feasible, acceptable, and scalable approach for increasing PA in individuals with AUD. Objective: This study aims to test the Fit&Sober app developed for patients with AUD. The goals of the app were to facilitate self-monitoring of PA engagement and daily mood and alcohol cravings, increase awareness of immediate benefits of PA on mood and cravings, encourage setting and adjusting PA goals, provide resources and increase knowledge for increasing PA, and serve as a resource for alcohol relapse prevention strategies. Methods: To preliminarily test the Fit&Sober app, we conducted an open pilot trial of patients with AUD in early recovery (N=22; 13/22, 59% women; mean age 43.6, SD 11.6 years). At the time of hospital admission, participants drank 72% of the days in the last 3 months, averaging 9 drinks per drinking day. The extent to which the Fit&Sober app was feasible and acceptable among patients with AUD during early recovery was examined. Changes in alcohol consumption, PA, anxiety, depression, alcohol craving, and quality of life were also examined after 12 weeks of app use. Results: Participants reported high levels of satisfaction with the Fit&Sober app. App metadata suggested that participants were still using the app approximately 2.5 days per week by the end of the intervention. Pre-post analyses revealed small-to-moderate effects on increase in PA, from a mean of 5784 (SD 2511) steps per day at baseline to 7236 (SD 3130) steps per day at 12 weeks (Cohen d=0.35). Moderate-to-large effects were observed for increases in percentage of abstinent days (Cohen d=2.17) and quality of life (Cohen d=0.58) as well as decreases in anxiety (Cohen d=-0.71) and depression symptoms (Cohen d=-0.58). Conclusions: The Fit&Sober app is an acceptable and feasible approach for increasing PA in patients with AUD during early recovery. A future randomized controlled trial is necessary to determine the efficacy of the Fit&Sober app for long-term maintenance of PA, ancillary mental health, and alcohol outcomes. If the efficacy of the Fit&Sober app could be established, patients with AUD would have a valuable adjunct to traditional alcohol treatment that can be delivered in any setting and at any time, thereby improving the overall health and well-being of this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35926
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • AUD
  • Fitbit
  • alcohol use disorder
  • feasibility study
  • mobile phone
  • physical activity
  • smartphone app

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Informatics


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