The Efficacy of a Walking Intervention Using Social Media to Increase Physical Activity: A Randomized Trial

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health

Background:

Facebook may be a useful tool to provide a social support group to encourage increases in physical activity. This study examines the efficacy of a Facebook social support group to increase steps/day in young women.

Methods:

Female college freshmen (N = 63) were randomized to one of two 8-week interventions: a Facebook Social Support Group (n = 32) or a Standard Walking Intervention (n = 31). Participants in both groups received weekly step goals and tracked steps/day with a pedometer. Women in the Facebook Social Support Group were also enrolled in a Facebook group and asked to post information about their steps/day and provide feedback to one another.

Results:

Women in both intervention arms significantly increased steps/day pre- to postintervention (F(8,425) = 94.43, P < .001). However, women in the Facebook Social Support Group increased steps/day significantly more (F(1,138) = 11.34, P < .001) than women in the Standard Walking Intervention, going from 5295 to 12,472 steps/day.

Conclusions:

These results demonstrate the potential effectiveness of using Facebook to offer a social support group to increase physical activity in young women. Women in the Facebook Social Support Group increased walking by approximately 1.5 miles/day more than women in the Standard Walking Intervention which, if maintained, could have a profound impact on their future health.

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Rote (arote@unca.edu) is with the Dept of Health and Wellness, University of North Carolina, Asheville, NC. Klos and Swartz are with the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Brondino is with the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Research, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Harley is with the Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, Center for Applied Behavioral Health Research, Milwaukee, WI.

Journal of Physical Activity and Health