Background: Physical activity mobile apps present a unique medium to disseminate scalable interventions to increase levels of physical activity. However, the effectiveness of mobile apps has previously been limited by low levels of engagement. Existing Web-based social networking platforms (eg, Facebook and Twitter) afford high levels of popularity, reach, and sustain engagement and, thus, may present an innovative strategy to enhance the engagement, and ultimately the effectiveness of mobile apps. Objective: This study aimed to comparatively examine the effectiveness of, and engagement with, interventions that incorporate physical activity mobile apps in conjunction with and without existing Web-based social networking platforms (eg, Facebook and Twitter). Methods: A systematic review was conducted by following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis Guidelines. A systematic search of the following databases was conducted: Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus, CINAHL, ProQuest, SPORTDiscus, EMBASE, and Cochrane. According to the comparative objective of this review, 2 independent literature searches were conducted. The first incorporated terms related to apps and physical activity; the second also incorporated terms related to Web-based social networking. The results of the two searches were synthesized and compared narratively. Results: A total of 15 studies were identified, 10 incorporated a physical activity app alone and 5 incorporated an app in conjunction with an existing Web-based social networking platform. Overall, 10 of the 15 interventions were effective in improving one or more physical activity behaviors. Specifically, improvements in physical activity behaviors were reported in 7 of the 10 interventions incorporating physical activity apps alone and in 3 of the 5 interventions incorporating physical activity apps in conjunction with existing Web-based social networking platforms. Interventions incorporating physical activity apps alone demonstrated a decline in app engagement. In contrast, the physical activity apps in conjunction with existing Web-based social networking platforms showed increased and sustained intervention engagement. Conclusions: The interventions incorporating physical activity apps in conjunction with and without existing Web-based social networking platforms demonstrated effectiveness in improving physical activity behaviors. Notably, however, the interventions that incorporated existing Web-based social networking platforms achieved higher levels of engagement than those that did not. This review provides preliminary evidence that existing Web-based social networking platforms may be fundamental to increase engagement with physical activity interventions.
Petersen, J. M., Prichard, I., & Kemps, E. (2019). A comparison of physical activity mobile apps with and without existing web-based social networking platforms: Systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(8). https://doi.org/10.2196/12687