Background: Many people in Western countries do not follow public health physical activity (PA) recommendations. Web-based interventions provide cost- and time-efficient means of delivering individually targeted lifestyle modification at a population level.
Objective: To examine whether access to a website with individually tailored feedback and suggestions on how to increase PA led to improved PA, anthropometrics, and health measurements.
Methods: Physically inactive adults (n = 12,287) participating in a nationwide eHealth survey and health examination in Denmark were randomly assigned to either an intervention (website) (n = 6055) or a no-intervention control group (n = 6232) in 2008. The intervention website was founded on the theories of stages of change and of planned behavior and, apart from a forum page where a physiotherapist answered questions about PA and training, was fully automated. After 3 and again after 6 months we emailed participants invitations to answer a Web-based follow-up questionnaire, which included the long version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. A subgroup of participants (n = 1190) were invited to a follow-up health examination at 3 months.
Results: Less than 22.0% (694/3156) of the participants logged on to the website once and only 7.0% (222/3159) logged on frequently. We found no difference in PA level between the website and control groups at 3- and 6-month follow-ups. By dividing participants into three groups according to use of the intervention website, we found a significant difference in total and leisure-time PA in the website group. The follow-up health examination showed no significant reductions in body mass index, waist circumference, body fat percentage, and blood pressure, or improvements in arm strength and aerobic fitness in the website group.
Conclusions: Based on our findings, we suggest that active users of a Web-based PA intervention can improve their level of PA. However, for unmotivated users, single-tailored feedback may be too brief. Future research should focus on developing more sophisticated interventions with the potential to reach both motivated and unmotivated sedentary individuals.
Trial registration: Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01295203; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01295203 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6B7HDMqiQ).