Walking interventions focused on increasing step counts are typically associated with salutary effects on glycemia, fasting insulin, insulin resistance and blood lipids which may be in turn associated with improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (peak oxygen uptake – VO2peak) and vascular stiffness. We hypothesized that a novel 4-month, behavioral economics-based walking intervention would have favorable effects on glucose homeostasis and blood lipids and that these in turn would be related to VO2peak and vascular stiffness (carotid femoral pulse wave velocity – cfPWV).
We carried out secondary analyses on a subsample of sedentary, overweight/obese adults who participated in a 4-month, 2x2, randomized-controlled walking intervention examining the effects of goal setting (static v. adaptive goals) and rewards (immediate v. delayed) on steps/day (N=96). Fasting blood samples (n=58) were collected from participants before and after the intervention. Premenopausal females were in the follicular phase of their menstrual cycles. Lipid and glucose levels were measured using an automated chemistry analyzer, while insulin was measured using radio-immunoassay. Homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) was calculated using the following formula (HOMA-IR=glucose x insulin / 405). We examined associations [partial correlations (adjusted for age)] between changes in blood biomarkers and VO2peak and cfPWV, irrespective of group, and we used linear mixed models to examine between-group differences in levels of and change in biomarker outcomes.
Groups did not differ in overall levels of, or degree of change in, biomarker outcomes (all p>0.05). Mean changes, irrespective of group, in biomarkers were as follows: glucose Δ= 0.74± 4.5mg/dl; insulin Δ= 0.09 ± 4.1 µU/ml; total cholesterol Δ= 0.24 ± 20.6 mg/dl; HDL-C Δ= 0.27 ± 5.1 mg/dl; LDL-C Δ= 1.3 ± 19.9 mg/dl; triglycerides Δ= 1.7 ± 27.2 mg/dl; HOMA-IR Δ = -.0548 ± 1.05). We found no significant associations between change in biomarker levels and change in VO2peak or change in cfPWV (all correlation coefficients < 0.15; p > 0.05).
A 4-month, behavioral economics-based mHealth intervention focused on increasing steps/day did not bring about favorable changes on markers of glycemia, insulin resistance and blood lipids.