The college-age population is insufficiently active and physical activity declines during the college years. Interventions in university settings are potential avenues for increasing physical activity in this population.
PURPOSE: To examine the effect of movement technology on college students’ physical activity levels, self-determined motivation for physical activity, physical activity enjoyment, and stage of change.
METHODS: Students (N = 75) wore pedometers for one week at baseline and at post-intervention to objectively assess physical activity. Volunteer participants in a university basic instruction course were randomly assigned to condition. The intervention group (n = 34) wore a Fitbit® Flex everyday throughout the 10-week intervention. The comparison group (n = 41) did not wear a Fitbit monitor. The Fitbit is a commercially available monitor that can be used to assess physical activity, provide feedback, self-monitor, and set goals. Intervention effectiveness was evaluated with a series of mixed model analyses of variance and effect size estimates via Cohen’s delta (d).
RESULTS: Across conditions, students showed decreases in objectively measured steps per day from baseline to post-intervention, possibly due to the time of the semester in which the pedometer assessment was conducted. However, students who wore a Fitbit had a lesser decrease in steps per day (decrease of 104 steps per day, d = -0.05) compared to students who did not wear a Fitbit (decrease of 461 steps per day, d = -0.18). The difference in changes in steps per day between conditions was small and not significant (p = .98; d = 0.16). From baseline to post-intervention, self-reported physical activity increased more in the students who wore a Fitbit than in students who did not (p = .07; d = 0.32). Changes in self-determined motivation for physical activity, physical activity enjoyment, and stage of change were similar for both groups (p > .05, d < 0.16). Intrinsic regulation was the only motivational variable that increased more among students who wore a Fitbit compared to students who did not wear a Fitbit (d = 0.33), although this difference was not significant (p = .11).
CONCLUSIONS: Commercially available activity monitors, such as the Fitbit, can have a small positive impact on physical activity and intrinsic regulation for physical activity.