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Effects of a Web-Based Personalized Intervention on Physical Activity in European Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carlos Celis Morales, Professor John Mathers


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Background: The high prevalence of physical inactivity worldwide calls for innovative and more effective ways to promote physical activity (PA). There are limited objective data on the effectiveness of Web-based personalized feedback on increasing PA in adults.Objective: It is hypothesized that providing personalized advice based on PA measured objectively alongside diet, phenotype, or genotype information would lead to larger and more sustained changes in PA, compared with nonpersonalized advice.Methods: A total of 1607 adults in seven European countries were randomized to either a control group (nonpersonalized advice, Level 0, L0) or to one of three personalized groups receiving personalized advice via the Internet based on current PA plus diet (Level 1, L1), PA plus diet and phenotype (Level 2, L2), or PA plus diet, phenotype, and genotype (Level 3, L3). PA was measured for 6 months using triaxial accelerometers, and self-reported using the Baecke questionnaire. Outcomes were objective and self-reported PA after 3 and 6 months.Results: While 1270 participants (85.81% of 1480 actual starters) completed the 6-month trial, 1233 (83.31%) self-reported PA at both baseline and month 6, but only 730 (49.32%) had sufficient objective PA data at both time points. For the total cohort after 6 months, a greater improvement in self-reported total PA (P=.02) and PA during leisure (nonsport) (P=.03) was observed in personalized groups compared with the control group. For individuals advised to increase PA, we also observed greater improvements in those two self-reported indices (P=.006 and P=.008, respectively) with increased personalization of the advice (L2 and L3 vs L1). However, there were no significant differences in accelerometer results between personalized and control groups, and no significant effect of adding phenotypic or genotypic information to the tailored feedback at month 3 or 6. After 6 months, there were small but significant improvements in the objectively measured physical activity level (P<.05), moderate PA (P<.01), and sedentary time (P<.001) for individuals advised to increase PA, but these changes were similar across all groups.Conclusions: Different levels of personalization produced similar small changes in objective PA. We found no evidence that personalized advice is more effective than conventional "one size fits all" guidelines to promote changes in PA in our Web-based intervention when PA was measured objectively. Based on self-reports, PA increased to a greater extent with more personalized advice. Thus, it is crucial to measure PA objectively in any PA intervention study.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Marsaux CFM, Celis-Morales C, Fallaize R, Macready AL, Kolossa S, Woolhead C, O'Donovan CB, Forster H, Navas-Carretero S, San-Cristobal R, Lambrinou CP, Moschonis G, Surwillo A, Godlewska M, Goris A, Hoonhout J, Drevon CA, Manios Y, Traczyk I, Walsh MC, Gibney ER, Brennan L, Martinez JA, Lovegrove JA, Gibney MJ, Daniel H, Mathers JC, Saris WHM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Medical Interest Research

Year: 2015

Volume: 17

Issue: 10

Online publication date: 14/10/2015

Acceptance date: 22/09/2015

ISSN (print): 1439-4456

ISSN (electronic): 1438-8871

Publisher: JMIR Publications, Inc.


DOI: 10.2196/jmir.4660


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Funder referenceFunder name
265494European Commission