JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

A Web-Based, Social Networking Physical Activity Intervention for Insufficiently Active Adults Delivered via Facebook App: Randomized Controlled Trial

Carol Maher, Monika Ferguson, Corneel Vandelanotte, Ron Plotnikoff, Ilse De Bourdeaudhuij, Samantha Thomas, Karen Nelson-Field, Tim Olds
Journal of Medical Internet Research 2015, 17 (7): e174
26169067

BACKGROUND: Online social networks offer considerable potential for delivery of socially influential health behavior change interventions.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the efficacy, engagement, and feasibility of an online social networking physical activity intervention with pedometers delivered via Facebook app.

METHODS: A total of 110 adults with a mean age of 35.6 years (SD 12.4) were recruited online in teams of 3 to 8 friends. Teams were randomly allocated to receive access to a 50-day online social networking physical activity intervention which included self-monitoring, social elements, and pedometers ("Active Team" Facebook app; n=51 individuals, 12 teams) or a wait-listed control condition (n=59 individuals, 13 teams). Assessments were undertaken online at baseline, 8 weeks, and 20 weeks. The primary outcome measure was self-reported weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Secondary outcomes were weekly walking, vigorous physical activity time, moderate physical activity time, overall quality of life, and mental health quality of life. Analyses were undertaken using random-effects mixed modeling, accounting for potential clustering at the team level. Usage statistics were reported descriptively to determine engagement and feasibility.

RESULTS: At the 8-week follow-up, the intervention participants had significantly increased their total weekly MVPA by 135 minutes relative to the control group (P=.03), due primarily to increases in walking time (155 min/week increase relative to controls, P<.001). However, statistical differences between groups for total weekly MVPA and walking time were lost at the 20-week follow-up. There were no significant changes in vigorous physical activity, nor overall quality of life or mental health quality of life at either time point. High levels of engagement with the intervention, and particularly the self-monitoring features, were observed.

CONCLUSIONS: An online, social networking physical activity intervention with pedometers can produce sizable short-term physical activity changes. Future work is needed to determine how to maintain behavior change in the longer term, how to reach at-need populations, and how to disseminate such interventions on a mass scale.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12614000488606; https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=366239 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6ZVtu6TMz).

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