Background: Physical inactivity is one of the leading modifiable causes of death and disease in Australia. National surveys indicate less than half of the Australian adult population are sufficiently active to obtain health benefits. The Internet is a potentially important medium for successfully communicating health messages to the general population and enabling individual behaviour change. Internet-based interventions have proven efficacy; however, intervention studies describing website usage objectively have reported a strong decline in usage, and high attrition rate, over the course of the interventions. Web 2.0 applications give users control over web content generated and present innovative possibilities to improve user engagement. There is, however, a need to assess the effectiveness of these applications in the general population. The Walk 2.0 project is a 3-arm randomised controlled trial investigating the effects of "next generation" web-based applications on engagement, retention, and subsequent physical activity behaviour change.
Methods/design: 504 individuals will be recruited from two sites in Australia, randomly allocated to one of two web-based interventions (Web 1.0 or Web 2.0) or a control group, and provided with a pedometer to monitor physical activity. The Web 1.0 intervention will provide participants with access to an existing physical activity website with limited interactivity. The Web 2.0 intervention will provide access to a website featuring Web 2.0 content, including social networking, blogs, and virtual walking groups. Control participants will receive a logbook to record their steps. All groups will receive similar educational material on setting goals and increasing physical activity. The primary outcomes are objectively measured physical activity and website engagement and retention. Other outcomes measured include quality of life, psychosocial correlates, and anthropometric measurements. Outcomes will be measured at baseline, 3, 12 and 18 months.
Discussion: The findings of this study will provide increased understanding of the benefit of new web-based technologies and applications in engaging and retaining participants on web-based intervention sites, with the aim of improved health behaviour change outcomes.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, ACTRN12611000157976.