Integrating text-messaging and web-based interventions to improve physical activity and nutrition among college students
O'Brien, Lauren Michelle
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Regular physical activity and the inclusion of fruits and vegetables in dietary intake contribute to a variety of positive health outcomes and improve quality of life. With more than half of college students falling short of government guidelines for exercise and nutrition (ACHA, 2009), effective interventions targeting young adults during this transitional time are critical. Mobile phone use has become increasingly common among college students, providing an opportunity to develop intervention strategies that may be better integrated into their daily lives. Research on intervention components delivered by phone is essential for developing easily utilized, efficacious nutrition and physical activity interventions for students. Study objectives were (1) to examine the utility of a combined web-based and text-messaging intervention for physical activity and nutrition among college students, and (2) to examine the value of text message tailoring to maximize improvement in these outcomes. Students recruited from introductory psychology classes (n=151) completed measures of physical activity and nutrition at baseline and one-month follow-up. Students were randomized into one of four conditions: assessment only, web-based health behaviors feedback only, web-based feedback with standardized daily text-messages, web-based feedback with tailored daily text-messages. Primary hypotheses were that the intervention that combined web-based feedback with tailored daily text-messages would result in increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable intake, and greater likelihood of meeting government standards for these behaviors at follow-up compared to the assessment control condition. Regression analyses were performed with planned contrasts between experimental conditions to examine the additive impact of each intervention component on primary outcomes. Secondary analyses were conducted on additional nutrition and physical activity outcomes. Exploratory analyses were conducted to examine whether individual difference variables moderated the influence of the intervention on outcomes. Study hypotheses were not supported. No significant effect was observed for the intervention on physical activity or nutrition outcomes. These findings may suggest the need for more intensive intervention strategies to impact behavior. Future iterations should include two-way text-message communication and feedback to increase depth-of-processing, alternative tailoring approaches based on self-reported goal-systems variables, and further exploration of intervention components that may improve physical activity and nutrition among college students.