Background: While there are increasing data implicating poor recognition of physical inactivity as a potential barrier to healthy behaviour change, the efficacy of feedback to promote physical activity is uncertain. Using a randomised controlled trial nested within a population-based cohort study, we plan to test three variations of physical activity feedback against a control group. Our primary objective is to assess the efficacy of physical activity feedback in promoting physical activity behaviour change. Secondary objectives are to determine the influence of feedback on physical activity awareness and cognitions, and to compare behavioural effects by type of feedback.
Methods/design: We aim to recruit 500 healthy participants aged 30 to 55 years from the ongoing Fenland Study (Cambridge, UK). Following careful phenotyping during baseline measurement (anthropometric, clinical, body composition and fitness measurements, as well as questionnaires assessing self-reported and self-rated physical activity, psychosocial correlates of physical activity behaviour, diet, lifestyle and general health), participants wear a combined heart rate and movement sensor (Actiheart(R)) for six continuous days and nights. After receipt of the physical activity data (around 2 weeks later), participants are randomly allocated to either a control group (no feedback) or one of three types of personalised physical activity feedback ('simple', 'visualised' or 'contextualised'), and complete repeat measures of self-rated physical activity and psychosocial correlates. Approximately five weeks after receiving feedback, all participants wear the Actiheart(R) for another six-day follow-up period and complete repeat questionnaires. Values at outcome, adjusted for baseline, will be compared between randomised groups.
Discussion: Given the randomised trial design and use of objective measure of physical activity, this study is likely to provide valuable insights into the efficacy of a feedback intervention in changing physical activity behaviour, as well as the psychological mechanisms involved.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials: ISRCTN92551397.