Phone message motivates participants to get out and walk

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Fitness research shows that when a computer talks the talk, even couch potatoes can be persuaded to walk the walk. Researchers at Stanford University, who studied sedentary people for a year, found that automated exercise reminder phone calls had about the same get-up-and-go power as calls from human counselors.

"The recording had a very nice, kind of cheerleader voice. It sounded very natural," said study participant Rita Horiguchi, who was initially disappointed to be assigned to get computer calls. "She would say things like, 'That's very good. I think you can go a little farther next week.' So I would do a little bit more.'"

Horiguchi was one of 218 adults over 55 in the San Francisco Bay area who took part in the study, known as Community Health Advice by Telephone, or CHAT. The goal was to get them out walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes most days, or engage in some other medium-intense activity, for a total of about 150 minutes a week.

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