Wójcicki, T.R., Grigsby-Toussaint, D., Hillman, C.H., Huhman, M., McAuley, E. (2014). Promoting physical activity in low-active adolescents via Facebook: a pilot randomized controlled trial to test feasibility. JMIR Research Protocols, 3(4):e56

logo_SMART_textBackground: The World Wide Web is an effective method for delivering health behavior programs, yet major limitations remain (eg, cost of development, time and resource requirements, limited interactivity). Social media, however, has the potential to deliver highly customizable and socially interactive behavioral interventions with fewer constraints. Thus, the evaluation of social media as a means to influence health behaviors is warranted. Objective: The objective of this trial was to examine and demonstrate the feasibility of using an established social networking platform (ie, Facebook) to deliver an 8 week physical activity intervention to a sample of low-active adolescents (N=21; estimated marginal mean age 13.48 years). Methods: Participants were randomized to either an experimental (ie, Behavioral) or attentional control (ie, Informational) condition. Both conditions received access to a restricted-access, study-specific Facebook group where the group’s administrator made two daily wall posts containing youth-based physical activity information and resources. Primary outcomes included physical activity as assessed by accelerometry and self-report. Interactions and main effects were examined, as well as mean differences in effect sizes. Results: Analyses revealed significant improvements over time on subjectively reported weekly leisure-time physical activity (F1,18=8.426, P=.009, η2 = .319). However, there was no interaction between time and condition (F1,18=0.002, P=.968, η2 = .000). There were no significant time or interaction effects among the objectively measured physical activity variables. Examination of effect sizes revealed moderate-to-large changes in physical activity outcomes. Conclusions: Results provide initial support for the feasibility of delivery of a physical activity intervention to low-active adolescents via social media. Whether by employing behavioral interventions via social media can result in statistically meaningful changes in health-related behaviors and outcomes remains to be determined.