Cycle 1

Action Research Focus Statement

Most people seldom make time to go to the gym and workout due to a myriad of excuses. Studies have also shown that too much sitting can cause ill effects on health in the long run. My action research’s proposed solution aims to improve the health lives of sedentary individuals through online training.

Target Audience Details

Target audience members are five single male and female individuals. There was one female participant over the age of 30 and the rest were males between the ages of 23 and 50. They lead sedentary lifestyles in which most of their working hours consist of sitting behind a desk or in front of a computer. They are tech-savvy individuals who are plugged into social media networks, staying on top of the news and keeping in touch with friends, family and co-workers. They are part of the culture of immediacy (fast food, fast internet, quick gains and rapid output).

Summary of Cycle 1

The implementation process began with a simple Google Form pre-workout survey that was emailed to participants. Next, they were emailed invitations to view the Google calendar workout session dates so that they can sync it on their computers and mobile devices; they were also forwarded disclaimers, waivers, and workout database information to read before starting the program. The next step was to get them altogether to install and test Google+ Hangouts on their computer. During the Hangouts session, participants were debriefed on what to expect in the next two months.

All the activities implemented were workout sessions using resistance bands.  No gym equipment was necessary as these exercises were done in the comfort of the home. Participants registered with MyFitnessPal.com to log their daily food intake and track weight loss progression. All workout sessions were conducted via Google+ Hangouts, an online group video chat software, that allowed each participant to view each other and the instructor. Sessions lasted fifteen minutes or less, with a few minutes spent afterwards gathering qualitative feedback.

During the first Hangouts session, participants asked how accessible the workout material would be. All workout demonstrations have been pre-recorded and put into a workout database that can be accessed whenever and wherever they are. This takes care of the “anytime, anywhere” component of this Action Research’s focus statement: although participants submitted which days they would be available to do their workouts, they can also access the filmed workout archives and join in with the “others” who made it to those sessions.

Once the workout session was over, participants typically talked about their day at work or how difficult the homework teachers were giving them (some are post-graduate students). While some talked about the ups and downs of their lives in general, others listened and offered praise or encouragement to those individuals. A tiny community was beginning to form around a ten-minute workout session, although conversations after the sessions usually lasted another fifteen to twenty minutes. Unfortunately, those conversations have been left out of the workout recordings to protect the privacy of these individuals.

The implementation process was straight-forward—participants were informed of what time and date the session would be before the day of the session. Five minutes prior to the start of the session, an invitation to join a Google+ Hangout was sent out via email with a link to that Hangout. Sessions are recorded in its entirety so that it can be evaluated during the data collection process. The inquiry question posed in the minds of participants was, “Will having online group accountability and interaction illicit self motivation to work out during a busy 9-5 work schedule?”

The implementation itself was successful in that all participants were able to follow along and do the exercises as demonstrated by the instructor as well as interact on a social level with others. Participants also gave their feedback when asked what they thought of the workout session and how to improve it.

Data Collection

Data Report

Various kinds of data ranging from the quantitative to the qualitative was collected throughout the first cycle. The pre surveys revealed that the age of participants varied between 19 and above 40. The number of participants that were full-time employees and worked a minimum of 40 hours per week made up 70%. Out of the group only one participant claimed to have a gym membership that they did not really use. The other 30% claimed that they have never been to a gym. The biggest reasons for not going to the gym ranged from not having the time, not having anyone to go with, that the gym was too far away, or that crowds were a demotivating factor. Post surveys will be distributed in Cycle 2.

Participants’ definition of a healthy lifestyle ranged from eating healthy to staying fit. They were willing to give up rich foods, personal recreation time, and negative relationships to achieve a healthier lifestyle. When asked what was one thing participants needed to help obtain their health goals, answers ranged from a radical change in lifestyle, self-discipline, making time for themselves, or finding someone to go with them to the gym.

Each workout session was recorded and archived for later investigation. Workout sessions lasted fifteen minutes less, and the total interactive group session did not exceed twenty minutes. After the Hangouts session was completed, a journal entry was created that detailed the date of the session, how long the session lasted, how many participants were present, and how many exercises were performed. Overall, participants reported that they felt great about doing the exercise session; they said that feeling soreness in their muscles, breathing quickly, and sweating were indications that they received an effective work-out. Participants also expressed wanting to participate in work-out sessions on a weekly basis as this would improve their health in the long run.

The social interaction between participants went fairly well. When asked how they felt about interacting with other people they have never met, they seemed comfortable because the interaction was online and the duration for meetings was fairly short. And since some participants already knew each other–and all participants knew the instructor–there was already a sense of camaraderie present in the sessions. These interactive exercise sessions are similar to the gym experience where group exercises are concerned (like Zumba and other dance/work-out classes), but very different because of the size of the group meetings and how these sessions are conducted online and from inside individuals’ homes.

No indication of extreme weight loss was exhibited during Cycle 1. However, participants verbalized that after each workout they felt their heart-rate escalate and even felt more energized. Participants felt healthy because doing the sessions each week was more than what they have ever done physically. Other than saving time and avoiding crowds, working out at home also doesn’t interrupt participants’ work at home, as some have families and children to tend to–the ten to fifteen minute sessions were not a bother and was a convenient time frame to exercise in. According to all participants, they are leading a healthier lifestyle because participating in these weekly exercises is a break from their normal routine; it is a stepping stone to more healthful habits. Where other online weight loss programs provide the tools to track food and calories, this Action Research focuses on the actual exercises themselves through a free service–a non-judgmental online environment where participants receive personalized attention.

Insight

The workout experiment proved to be successful in meeting the needs of participants as outlined by their pre-survey responses. Participants who were demotivated to join or travel to a gym found the in-home sessions particularly useful in their busy work schedules. Based on feedback elicited after each workout session, the Action Research helped participants jumpstart a healthier lifestyle by allowing group interactivity and accountability to dictate a timeframe for working out.

The literature reported that time pressure was a major turn-off and ultimately turned away potential persons from a healthier lifestyle. After the second week, participants were much more accustomed to each other and were often inclined to ask why certain individuals were not able to make it to sessions; participants would then call, text or email the missing person to confirm their absence or reserve their next available workout time slot. In the presence of time pressure, accountability kept participants coming back because workout sessions were both fun and enjoyable, had just the right amount of intensity and duration, elicited a positive physical and emotional response, and were personalized and interactive–something one would normally pay extra for at the gym.

After sifting through so many workout DVD’s, it is prudent to say that the Google+ Hangouts workout sessions are far superior to their DVD counterparts because of the personalization involved–it’s free and totally independent from the gym experience.

Surprises

During implementation, the instructor encountered several personal incidents that needed to be resolved. Because of this, the instructor rescheduled workout sessions last minute, but to his surprise, all participants were very understanding and supportive: they were encouraging and supportive and did their best to attend rescheduled sessions according to the instructor’s unique situations. One of the other surprises was the under-utilization of the MyFitnessPal.com personal tracking tools. Although the service contained attractive tools to keep track of health goals, all participants did not keep up with it. According to 90% of participants, the additional time constraint required to recollect and record their individual data points was undesirable.

The overall reaction to the workout session was very positive. Technical difficulties were quickly resolved, participants were on time to sessions overall, and there was a great deal of fun and enjoyment in working out together as a group online. Target audience reactions were also positive; some are listed below:

  • “It’s not too easy and not too hard; it’s just right for me.”
  • “For ten minutes, you can really feel your heart start pumping.”
  • “My muscles were worked and I feel good.”
  • “I have no complaints for this session.”

Future Direction

Participants’ feedback was positive and included improvements to future workout sessions, data points that should be considered in Cycle 2 implementation.

One feedback was creating a daily meal plan that would meet the needs of participants as outlined in their pre-survey responses. Weight management is not just about being physical and working out; it also includes having a balance diet that would the illicit the greatest response in fat loss. Another feedback point was including music in future sessions to add variety to the aural soundtrack and keep the ambience and participants motivated and pumping. Other feedback included varying the exercises and their durations to feel the muscles “burn” at a higher intensity.

Finally, had the instructor integrated the utilization of MyFitnessPal.com into the Hangouts session, perhaps the live accountability would encourage participants to continue to track their progress on their own time.

Cycle 2 will continue where Cycle 1 left off, but with the implementation of the above feedback responses. The inquiry question posed for participants for this cycle is the same from Cycle 1, “Will having online group accountability and interaction illicit self motivation to work out during a busy 9-5 work schedule?”

Shy Participant

Shy participant avoiding the camera

Tricep Extension

Everyone’s attempt at tricep extensions

Testing resistance

Testing the tension of the band

After session reflection

After session reflection and feedback

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