Introduction: Media-based physical activity interventions include a variety of print, graphic, audiovisual, and broadcast media programs intended to influence behavior change. New information technology allows print to be delivered in personalized, interactive formats that may enhance efficacy. Media-based interventions have been shaped by conceptual models from health education, Social Cognitive Theory, the Transtheoretical Model, and Social Marketing frameworks.
Methods: We reviewed 28 studies of media-based interventions of which seven were mass media campaigns at the state or national level and the remaining 21 were delivered through health care, the workplace, or in the community.
Results: Recall of mass-media messages generally was high, but mass-media campaigns had very little impact on physical activity behavior. Interventions using print and/or telephone were effective in changing behavior in the short term. Studies in which there were more contacts and interventions tailored to the target audience were most effective.
Conclusion: A key issue for research on media-based physical activity interventions is reaching socially disadvantaged groups for whom access, particularly to new forms of communication technology, may be limited. There is a clear need for controlled trials comparing different forms and intensities of media-based physical activity interventions. Controlled studies of personalized print, interactive computer-mediated programs, and web-based formats for program delivery also are needed. The integration of media-based methods into public and private sector service delivery has much potential for innovation.