Computer- and web-based interventions to increase preadolescent and adolescent physical activity: a systematic review

J Adv Nurs. 2011 Feb;67(2):251-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05493.x. Epub 2010 Dec 28.


Aim: This review examined evidence regarding computer- or web-based interventions to increase preadolescent and adolescent physical activity.

Background: Today's youth are less active and more overweight than their counterparts from 25 years ago. Overweight youth tend to become overweight adults with weight-related maladies, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Interventions to increase physical activity that reach a large audience are needed. Computer- and web-based physical activity interventions are an appealing means to influence physical activity in preadolescents and adolescents. However, their effectiveness must be determined.

Data sources: The following electronic databases were searched for studies published from 1998 through 2010: CINAHL, PubMed, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts, SportDISCUS and Proquest.

Review methods: A systemic review was conducted. Fourteen randomized control trials or quasi-experimental studies were reviewed to: (1) determine the effect of computer- or web-based interventions on increasing physical activity and/or improving body mass index, weight, percent body fat or waist circumference as a result of increasing physical activity; and (2) examine if additional components associated with these interventions increased success.

Results: Although most interventions demonstrated statistically significant increases in physical activity or positive health changes related to physical activity, findings were small or short-lived. The value of conducting the interventions at school, using a theory or model as a framework, and supplementing with individual tailoring and parental involvement, is discussed.

Conclusion: Computer- and web-based interventions can promote physical activity among preadolescents and adolescents, particularly in schools. However, further efforts are needed to sustain positive changes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Nursing Research
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / prevention & control*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • School Health Services / organization & administration
  • Waist Circumference / physiology
  • Young Adult