Impact of an online healthful eating and physical activity program for college students

Geoffrey W. Greene, Adrienne A. White, Sharon L. Hoerr, Barbara Lohse, Susan M. Schembre, Deborah Riebe, Jill Patterson, Kendra K. Kattelmann, Suzanne Shoff, Tanya Horacek, Bryan Blissmer, Beatrice W. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Purpose. To identify impact of an online nutrition and physical activity program for college students. Design. Randomized, controlled trial using online questionnaires and on-site physical and fitness assessments with measurement intervals of 0 (baseline), 3 (postintervention), and 15 months (follow-up). Setting. Online intervention delivered to college students; a centralized Web site was used for recruitment, data collection, data management, and intervention delivery. Subjects. College students (18-24 years old, n = 1689), from eight universities (Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, Syracuse University, The Pennsylvania State University, Tuskegee University, University of Rhode Island, University of Maine, and University of Wisconsin). Intervention. A 10-lesson curriculum focusing on healthful eating and physical activity, stressing nondieting principles such as size acceptance and eating competence (software developer: Rainstorm, Inc, Orono, Maine). Measures. Measurements included anthropometrics, cardiorespiratory fitness, fruit/vegetable (FV) intake, eating competence, physical activity, and psychosocial stress. Analysis. Repeated measures analysis of variance for outcome variables. Results. Most subjects were white, undergraduate females (63%), with 25% either overweight or obese. Treatment group completion rate for the curriculum was 84%. Over 15 months, the treatment group had significantly higher FV intake (+.5 cups/d) and physical activity participation (+270 metabolic equivalent minutes per week) than controls. For both groups, anthropometric values and stress increased, and fitness levels decreased. Gender differences were present for most variables. First-year males and females gained more weight than participants in other school years. Conclusion. A 10-week online nutrition and physical activity intervention to encourage competence in making healthful food and eating decisions had a positive, lasting effect on FV intake and maintained baseline levels of physical activity in a population that otherwise experiences significant declines in these healthful behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e47-e58
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


  • Behavior
  • Health
  • Intervention study
  • Online
  • Prevention research
  • Universities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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