Examining the use of evidence-based and social media supported tools in freely accessible physical activity intervention websites

Corneel Vandelanotte*, Morwenna Kirwan, Amanda Rebar, Stephanie Alley, Camille Short, Luke Fallon, Gavin Buzza, Stephanie Schoeppe, Carol Maher, Mitch J. Duncan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Background: It has been shown that physical activity is more likely to increase if web-based interventions apply evidence-based components (e.g. self-monitoring) and incorporate interactive social media applications (e.g. social networking), but it is unclear to what extent these are being utilized in the publicly available web-based physical activity interventions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether freely accessible websites delivering physical activity interventions use evidence-based behavior change techniques and provide social media applications.Methods: In 2013, a systematic search strategy examined 750 websites. Data was extracted on a wide range of variables (e.g. self-monitoring, goal setting, and social media applications). To evaluate website quality a new tool, comprising three sub-scores (Behavioral Components, Interactivity and User Generated Content), was developed to assess implementation of behavior change techniques and social media applications. An overall website quality scored was obtained by summing the three sub-scores.Results: Forty-six publicly available websites were included in the study. The use of self-monitoring (54.3%), goal setting (41.3%) and provision of feedback (46%) was relatively low given the amount of evidence supporting these features. Whereas the presence of features allowing users to generate content (73.9%), and social media components (Facebook (65.2%), Twitter (47.8%), YouTube (48.7%), smartphone applications (34.8%)) was relatively high considering their innovative and untested nature. Nearly all websites applied some behavioral and social media applications. The average Behavioral Components score was 3.45 (±2.53) out of 10. The average Interactivity score was 3.57 (±2.16) out of 10. The average User Generated Content Score was 4.02 (±2.77) out of 10. The average overall website quality score was 11.04 (±6.92) out of 30. Four websites (8.7%) were classified as high quality, 12 websites (26.1%) were classified as moderate quality, and 30 websites (65.2%) were classified as low quality.Conclusions: Despite large developments in Internet technology and growth in the knowledge of how to develop more effective web-based interventions, overall website quality was low and the majority of freely available physical activity websites lack the components associated with behavior change. However, the results show that website quality can be improved by taking a number of simple steps, and the presence of social media applications in most websites is encouraging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Behavior change
  • Freely accessible
  • Interactivity
  • Internet
  • Online
  • Physical activity
  • Social media
  • User generated content
  • Web 2.0
  • Web-based intervention
  • Website quality


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