Friday, March 6, 2015

What features do Dutch university students prefer in a smartphone application for promotion of physical activity?

The transition from adolescence to early adulthood is a critical period in which there is a decline in physical activity (PA). College and university students make up a large segment of this age group. Smartphones may be used to promote and support PA. The purpose of a qualitative study just published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity, with Anouk Middelweerd as first author, was to explore Dutch students’ preferences regarding a PA application (PA app) for smartphones. Thirty Dutch students (aged 18–25 years) used a PA app for three weeks and subsequently attended focus group discussions. To streamline the discussion, a discussion guide was developed covering seven main topics, including general app usage, usage and appreciation of the PA app, appreciation of and preferences for its features and the sharing of PA accomplishments through social media. The discussions were audio and video recorded, transcribed and analysed according to conventional content analysis.
Participants preferred for PA apps a simple and structured layout without unnecessary features. Ideally, the PA app should enable users to tailor it to their personal preferences by including the ability to hide features. Participants preferred a companion website for detailed information about their accomplishments and progress, and they liked tracking their workout using GPS. They preferred PA apps that coached and motivated them and provided tailored feedback toward personally set goals. They appreciated PA apps that enabled competition with friends by ranking or earning rewards, but only if the reward system was transparent. They were not willing to share their regular PA accomplishments through social media unless they were exceptionally positive. In conclusion,  participants prefer PA apps that coach and motivate them, that provide tailored feedback toward personally set goals and that allow competition with friends.

Associations between active video gaming and other energy-balance related behaviours in adolescents

Active video games, i.e. video games that require physical activity for play, may contribute to reducing time spent in sedentary activities, increasing physical activity and preventing excessive weight gain in adolescents. Active video gaming can, however, only be beneficial for weight management when it replaces sedentary activities and not other physical activity, and when it is not associated with a higher energy intake. In a study just published in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, we report an examination of the association between active video gaming and other energy-balance-related behaviours (EBRBs). Adolescents (12–16 years) with access to an active video game and who reported to spend at least one hour per week in active video gaming were invited to participate in the study. They were asked to complete electronic 24-hour recall diaries on five randomly assigned weekdays and two randomly assigned weekend-days in a one-month period, reporting on time spent playing active and non-active video games and on other EBRBs. Adolescents who reported playing active video games also reported spending more time playing non-active video games compared to adolescents who did not report playing active video games. No differences between these groups were found in other EBRBs. Among those who played active video games, active video game time was positively yet weakly associated with TV/DVD time and snack consumption. Active video game time was not significantly associated with other activities and sugar-sweetened beverages intake.
The results suggest that it is unlikely that time spent by adolescents in playing active video games replaces time spent in other physically active behaviours or sedentary activities. Spending more time playing active video games does seem to be associated with a small, but significant increase in intake of snacks. This suggests that interventions aimed at increasing time spent on active video gaming, may have unexpected side effects, thus warranting caution.