Dutch Young Adults Ratings of Behavior Change Techniques Applied in Mobile Phone Apps to Promote Physical Activity: A Cross-Sectional Survey.

Belmon (2015)
Summary by 

Interventions delivered through new device technology, including mobile phone apps, appear to be an effective method to reach young adults. Previous research indicates that self-efficacy and social support for physical activity and self-regulation behavior change techniques (BCT), such as goal setting, feedback, and self-monitoring, are important for promoting physical activity; however, little is known about evaluations by the target population of BCTs applied to physical activity apps and whether these preferences are associated with individual personality characteristics. This study aimed to explore young adults' opinions regarding BCTs (including self-regulation techniques) applied in mobile phone physical activity apps, and to examine associations between personality characteristics and ratings of BCTs applied in physical activity apps. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey among healthy 18 to 30-year-old adults (N=179). Data on participants' gender, age, height, weight, current education level, living situation, mobile phone use, personality traits, exercise self-efficacy, exercise self-identity, total physical activity level, and whether participants met Dutch physical activity guidelines were collected. Items for rating BCTs applied in physical activity apps were selected from a hierarchical taxonomy for BCTs, and were clustered into three BCT categories according to factor analysis: "goal setting and goal reviewing," "feedback and self-monitoring," and "social support and social comparison." Most participants were female (n=146), highly educated (n=169), physically active, and had high levels of self-efficacy. In general, we observed high ratings of BCTs aimed to increase "goal setting and goal reviewing" and "feedback and self-monitoring," but not for BCTs addressing "social support and social comparison." Only 3 (out of 16 tested) significant associations between personality characteristics and BCTs were observed: "agreeableness" was related to more positive ratings of BCTs addressing "goal setting and goal reviewing" (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.06-2.41), "neuroticism" was related to BCTs addressing "feedback and self-monitoring" (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.58-1.00), and "exercise self-efficacy" was related to a high rating of BCTs addressing "feedback and self-monitoring" (OR 1.06, 95% CI 1.02-1.11). No associations were observed between personality characteristics (ie, personality, exercise self-efficacy, exercise self-identity) and participants' ratings of BCTs addressing "social support and social comparison." Young Dutch physically active adults rate self-regulation techniques as most positive and techniques addressing social support as less positive among mobile phone apps that aim to promote physical activity. Such ratings of BCTs differ according to personality traits and exercise self-efficacy. Future research should focus on which behavior change techniques in app-based interventions are most effective to increase physical activity.