Use of Wearable Technology and Social Media to Improve Physical Activity and Dietary Behaviors among College Students: A 12-Week Randomized Pilot Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Sep 25;16(19):3579. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16193579.


College students demonstrate poor physical activity (PA) and dietary behaviors. We evaluated the feasibility of a combined smartwatch and theoretically based, social media-delivered health education intervention versus a comparison on improving college students' health behaviors/outcomes. Thirty-eight students (28 female; Xage = 21.5 ± 3.4 years) participated in this two-arm, randomized 12-week pilot trial (2017-2018). Participants were randomized into: (a) experimental: Polar M400 use and twice-weekly social cognitive theory- and self-determination theory-based Facebook-delivered health education intervention; or (b) comparison: enrollment only in separate, but content-identical, Facebook intervention. Primary outcomes pertained to intervention feasibility. Secondary outcomes included accelerometer-estimated PA, physiological/psychosocial outcomes, and dietary behaviors. Intervention adherence was high (~86%), with a retention of 92.1%. Participants implemented health education tips 1-3 times per week. We observed experimental and comparison groups to have 4.2- and 1.6-min/day increases in moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), respectively, at six weeks-partially maintained at 12 weeks. In both groups, similarly decreased body weight (experimental = -0.6 kg; comparison = -0.5 kg) and increased self-efficacy, social support, and intrinsic motivation were observed pre- and post-intervention. Finally, we observed small decreases in daily caloric consumption over time (experimental = -41.0 calories; comparison = -143.3). Both interventions were feasible/of interest to college students and demonstrated initial effectiveness at improving health behaviors/outcomes. However, smartwatch provision may not result in an additional benefit.

Keywords: Polar M400; facebook; health behavior change; physiological health; theory.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Media*
  • Social Support
  • Students / psychology*
  • Wearable Electronic Devices*
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult