Tailoring 'digital nudges' to the weather can increase exercise, U of M research shows

(FOX 9)

Tailored "digital nudges" based on current weather can better encourage people to exercise, according to research done by the University of Minnesota

Research has shown that over time, digital nudges, like push alerts, sent to a user's phone, lose their effectiveness in getting the user to get moving. Researchers say the powerful effect weather has on a person’s mood led them to see if tailored messages, based on weather, could change that trend. 

After partnering with an Asian health app company, researchers determined the best messages to send during either sunny or cloudy weather. 

The messages sent to users asked them to participate in the 10,000-step walking challenge. The research found that during sunny weather, "loss-framed" messages focused on health risks were most effective at increasing user exercise. Conversely, "gain-framed" messages focused on health benefits were more effective during cloudy weather. 

The research also found that tailored weather messages continued to resonate with users over time. 

"Mobile health apps represent a multi-billion industry, with over 500 million active users," associated professor at the Carlson School of Management and co-author of the study Jason Chan said in a press release. "Our findings can help inform these companies on how to integrate weather-based designs into their products and better motivate their users to keep active and healthy."

According to Chan, the message pairing supports a theory called "mood as a resource," which shows that people are in a better mood when it is sunny and a worse mood when the weather is cloudy. The theory says that when someone is in a bad mood, positive framing is more effective, while when they are in a good mood, framing the alerts as a "warning" gets better results.