The Effectiveness of a Web-Based Computer-Tailored Physical Activity Intervention Using Fitbit Activity Trackers: Randomized Trial

J Med Internet Res. 2018 Dec 18;20(12):e11321. doi: 10.2196/11321.


Background: Web-based interventions that provide personalized physical activity advice have demonstrated good effectiveness but rely on self-reported measures of physical activity, which are prone to overreporting, potentially reducing the accuracy and effectiveness of the advice provided.

Objective: This study aimed to examine whether the effectiveness of a Web-based computer-tailored intervention could be improved by integrating Fitbit activity trackers.

Methods: Participants received the 3-month TaylorActive intervention, which included 8 modules of theory-based, personally tailored physical activity advice and action planning. Participants were randomized to receive the same intervention either with or without Fitbit tracker integration. All intervention materials were delivered on the Web, and there was no face-to-face contact at any time point. Changes in physical activity (Active Australia Survey), sitting time (Workforce Sitting Questionnaire), and body mass index (BMI) were assessed 1 and 3 months post baseline. Advice acceptability, website usability, and module completion were also assessed.

Results: A total of 243 Australian adults participated. Linear mixed model analyses showed a significant increase in total weekly physical activity (adjusted mean increase=163.2; 95% CI 52.0-274.5; P=.004) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (adjusted mean increase=78.6; 95% CI 24.4-131.9; P=.004) in the Fitbit group compared with the non-Fitbit group at the 3-month follow-up. The sitting time and BMI decreased more in the Fitbit group, but no significant group × time interaction effects were found. The physical activity advice acceptability and the website usability were consistently rated higher by participants in the Fitbit group. Non-Fitbit group participants completed 2.9 (SD 2.5) modules, and Fitbit group participants completed 4.4 (SD 3.1) modules.

Conclusions: Integrating physical activity trackers into a Web-based computer-tailored intervention significantly increased intervention effectiveness.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12616001555448; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: online, internet, tracking, health behavior change, advanced activity trackers, wearables.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fitness Trackers / trends*
  • Humans
  • Internet / instrumentation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged