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A social networking and gamified app to increase physical activity: Cluster RCT

journal contribution
posted on 19.02.2020, 00:00 by SM Edney, TS Olds, JC Ryan, Corneel VandelanotteCorneel Vandelanotte, RC Plotnikoff, RG Curtis, CA Maher
Introduction: Appealing approaches to increasing physical activity levels are needed. This study evaluated whether a social and gamified smartphone app (Active Team) could be one such approach. Study design: A 3-group cluster RCT compared the efficacy of Active Team with a basic self-monitoring app and waitlist control group. Setting/participants: Australian adults (N=444, mean age of 41 years, 74% female) were recruited in teams (n=121) and randomly assigned (1:1:1) to the Active Team (n=141, 39 teams), self-monitoring app (n=160, 42 teams), or waitlist group (n=143, 40 teams). Data were collected in 2016–2017, and analysis was conducted in 2018–2019. Intervention: Active Team is a 100-day app-based, gamified, online social networking physical activity intervention. Main outcome measures: The primary outcome was change in objective physical activity from baseline to 3-month follow-up. Secondary outcomes included objective physical activity at 9 months and self-reported physical activity, quality of life, depression, anxiety and stress, well-being, and engagement. Results: Mixed models indicated no significant differences in objective physical activity between groups at 3 (F=0.17, p=0.84; Cohen's d=0.03, 95% CI= −0.21, 0.26) or 9 months (F=0.23, p=0.92; d=0.06, 95% CI= −0.17, 0.29) and no significant differences for secondary outcomes of quality of life, depression, anxiety and stress, or well-being. Self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity was significantly higher in the Active Team group at the 9-month follow-up (F=3.05, p=0.02; d=0.50, 95% CI=0.26, 0.73). Engagement was high; the Active Team group logged steps on an average of 72 (SD=35) days and used the social and gamified features an average of 89 (SD=118) times. Conclusions: A gamified, online social networking physical activity intervention did not change objective moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, though it did increase self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and achieve high levels of engagement. Future work is needed to understand if gamification, online social networks, and app-based approaches can be leveraged to achieve positive behavior change. Trial registration: This study is registered at Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry (protocol: ANZCTR12617000113358). © 2019 American Journal of Preventive Medicine


Category 1 - Australian Competitive Grants (this includes ARC, NHMRC)






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Elsevier, USA

Peer Reviewed


Open Access


External Author Affiliations

University of Newcastle; University of South Australia; CSIRO

Author Research Institute

Appleton Institute

Era Eligible



American Journal of Preventive Medicine