A Systematic Review of Digital Interventions for Improving the Diet and Physical Activity Behaviors of Adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2017 Dec;61(6):669-677. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.024. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


Many adolescents have poor diet and physical activity behaviors, which can lead to the development of noncommunicable diseases in later life. Digital platforms offer inexpensive means of delivering health interventions, but little is known about their effectiveness. This systematic review was conducted to synthesize evidence on the effectiveness of digital interventions to improve diet quality and increase physical activity in adolescents, to effective intervention components and to assess the cost-effectiveness of these interventions. Following a systematic search, abstracts were assessed against inclusion criteria, and data extraction and quality assessment were performed for included studies. Data were analyzed to identify key features that are associated with significant improvement in behavior. A total of 27 studies met inclusion criteria. Most (n = 15) were Web site interventions. Other delivery methods were text messages, games, multicomponent interventions, emails, and social media. Significant behavior change was often seen when interventions included education, goal setting, self-monitoring, and parental involvement. None of the publications reported cost-effectiveness. Due to heterogeneity of studies, meta-analysis was not feasible.It is possible to effect significant health behavior change in adolescents through digital interventions that incorporate education, goal setting, self-monitoring, and parental involvement. Most of the evidence relates to Web sites and further research into alternate media is needed, and longer term outcomes should be evaluated. There is a paucity of data on the cost-effectiveness of digital health interventions, and future trials should report these data.

Keywords: Adolescent health; Behavior; Diet; Digital; Exercise; Nutrition; Physical activity; mHealth.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Telemedicine / methods*