Web-Based Video-Coaching to Assist an Automated Computer-Tailored Physical Activity Intervention for Inactive Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2016 Aug 12;18(8):e223. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5664.


Background: Web-based physical activity interventions that apply computer tailoring have shown to improve engagement and behavioral outcomes but provide limited accountability and social support for participants. It is unknown how video calls with a behavioral expert in a Web-based intervention will be received and whether they improve the effectiveness of computer-tailored advice.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of brief video-based coaching in addition to fully automated computer-tailored advice in a Web-based physical activity intervention for inactive adults.

Methods: Participants were assigned to one of the three groups: (1) tailoring + video-coaching where participants received an 8-week computer-tailored Web-based physical activity intervention ("My Activity Coach") including 4 10-minute coaching sessions with a behavioral expert using a Web-based video-calling program (eg, Skype; n=52); (2) tailoring-only where participants received the same intervention without the coaching sessions (n=54); and (3) a waitlist control group (n=45). Demographics were measured at baseline, intervention satisfaction at week 9, and physical activity at baseline, week 9, and 6 months by Web-based self-report surveys. Feasibility was analyzed by comparing intervention groups on retention, adherence, engagement, and satisfaction using t tests and chi-square tests. Effectiveness was assessed using linear mixed models to compare physical activity changes between groups.

Results: A total of 23 tailoring + video-coaching participants, 30 tailoring-only participants, and 30 control participants completed the postintervention survey (83/151, 55.0% retention). A low percentage of tailoring + video-coaching completers participated in the coaching calls (11/23, 48%). However, the majority of those who participated in the video calls were satisfied with them (5/8, 71%) and had improved intervention adherence (9/11, 82% completed 3 or 4 modules vs 18/42, 43%, P=.01) and engagement (110 minutes spent on the website vs 78 minutes, P=.02) compared with other participants. There were no overall retention, adherence, engagement, and satisfaction differences between tailoring + video-coaching and tailoring-only participants. At 9 weeks, physical activity increased from baseline to postintervention in all groups (tailoring + video-coaching: +150 minutes/week; tailoring only: +123 minutes/week; waitlist control: +34 minutes/week). The increase was significantly higher in the tailoring + video-coaching group compared with the control group (P=.01). No significant difference was found between intervention groups and no significant between-group differences were found for physical activity change at 6 months.

Conclusions: Only small improvements were observed when video-coaching was added to computer-tailored advice in a Web-based physical activity intervention. However, combined Web-based video-coaching and computer-tailored advice was effective in comparison with a control group. More research is needed to determine whether Web-based coaching is more effective than stand-alone computer-tailored advice.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN): 12614000339651; http://www.anzctr.org.au/TrialSearch.aspx?searchTxt=ACTRN12614000339651+&isBasic=True (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6jTnOv0Ld).

Keywords: Internet; chronic disease; e-counseling; health promotion; motor activity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Computers
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Mentoring
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Young Adult