Evaluation of the Immediate Effects of Web-Based Intervention Modules for Goals, Planning, and Coping Planning on Physical Activity: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial on Weight Loss Maintenance

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  • Elina Mattila
  • Graham Horgan
  • António L. Palmeira
  • Ruairi O'Driscoll
  • R. James Stubbs
  • Heitmann, Berit
  • Marta M. Marques

Background: The use of digital interventions can be accurately monitored via log files. However, monitoring engagement with intervention goals or enactment of the actual behaviors targeted by the intervention is more difficult and is usually evaluated based on pre-post measurements in a controlled trial. Objective: The objective of this paper is to evaluate if engaging with 2 digital intervention modules focusing on (1) physical activity goals and action plans and (2) coping with barriers has immediate effects on the actual physical activity behavior. Methods: The NoHoW Toolkit (TK), a digital intervention developed to support long-term weight loss maintenance, was evaluated in a 2 x 2 factorial randomized controlled trial. The TK contained various modules based on behavioral self-regulation and motivation theories, as well as contextual emotion regulation approaches, and involved continuous tracking of weight and physical activity through connected commercial devices (Fitbit Aria and Charge 2). Of the 4 trial arms, 2 had access to 2 modules directly targeting physical activity: a module for goal setting and action planning (Goal) and a module for identifying barriers and coping planning (Barriers). Module visits and completion were determined based on TK log files and time spent in the module web page. Seven physical activity metrics (steps; activity; energy expenditure; fairly active, very active and total active minutes; and distance) were compared before and after visiting and completing the modules to examine whether the modules had immediate or sustained effects on physical activity. Immediate effect was determined based on 7-day windows before and after the visit, and sustained effects were evaluated for 1 to 8 weeks after module completion. Results: Out of the 811 participants, 498 (61.4%) visited the Goal module and 406 (50.1%) visited the Barriers module. The Barriers module had an immediate effect on very active and total active minutes (very active minutes: before median 24.2, IQR 10.4-43.0 vs after median 24.9, IQR 10.0-46.3; P=.047; total active minutes: before median 45.1, IQR 22.9-74.9 vs after median 46.9, IQR 22.4-78.4; P=.03). The differences were larger when only completed Barriers modules were considered. The Barriers module completion was also associated with sustained effects in fairly active and total active minutes for most of the 8 weeks following module completion and for 3 weeks in very active minutes. Conclusions: The Barriers module had small, significant, immediate, and sustained effects on active minutes measured by a wrist-worn activity tracker. Future interventions should pay attention to assessing barriers and planning coping mechanisms to overcome them. Trial Registration: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN88405328; https://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN88405328

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere35614
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Elina Mattila, Graham Horgan, António L Palmeira, Ruairi O'Driscoll, R James Stubbs, Berit L Heitmann, Marta M Marques.

    Research areas

  • action planning, control trial, coping planning, digital intervention, exercise, Fitbit, fitness, goal setting, immediate effect, long-term effect, physical activity, randomized controlled trial, RCT, secondary analysis, short-term effect, sustained effect, weight, weight loss maintenance

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