Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Adolescent; Adult; Behavior Therapy (methods); Body Weight (physiology); Exercise; Female; Humans; Male; Obesity (prevention & control); Social Media; Social Support; Students; Universities; Weight Gain; Young Adult


BACKGROUND: Both men and women are vulnerable to weight gain during the college years, and this phenomenon is linked to an increased risk of several chronic diseases and mortality. Technology represents an attractive medium for the delivery of weight control interventions focused on college students, given its reach and appeal among this population. However, few technology-mediated weight gain prevention interventions have been evaluated for college students. OBJECTIVE: This study examined a new technology-based, social media-facilitated weight gain prevention intervention for college students. METHODS: Undergraduates (n =58) in two sections of a public university course were allocated to either a behavioral weight gain prevention intervention (Healthy Weight, HW; N=29) or a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination awareness intervention (control; N=29). All students were enrolled, regardless of initial body weight or expressed interest in weight management. The interventions delivered 8 lessons via electronic newsletters and Facebook postings over 9 weeks, which were designed to foster social support and introduce relevant educational content. The HW intervention targeted behavioral strategies to prevent weight gain and provided participants with a Wi-Fi-enabled scale and an electronic physical activity tracker to facilitate weight regulation. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted to examine within- and between-group differences in measures of self-reported weight control practices and objectively measured weight. Use of each intervention medium and device was objectively tracked, and intervention satisfaction measures were obtained. RESULTS: Students remained weight stable (HW: -0.48+1.9 kg; control: -0.45+1.4 kg), with no significant difference between groups over 9 weeks (P =.94). However, HW students reported a significantly greater increase in the number of appropriate weight control strategies than did controls (2.1+4.5 vs -1.1+3.4, respectively; P =.003) and there was no increase in inappropriate weight control behaviors (P =.11). More than 90% of students in the HW arm opened the electronic newsletters each week, and the average number of Facebook interactions (comments and likes) per student each week was 3.3+1.4. Each self-monitoring device was initialized by 90% of HW students. On average, they used their physical activity tracker for 23.7+15.2 days and their Wi-Fi scale for 14.1+13.1 days over the 9 weeks. HW students rated the intervention favorably. CONCLUSIONS: The short-term effect of this technology-based weight gain prevention intervention for college students is promising and merits evaluation over a longer duration to determine whether engagement and behavioral improvements positively affect weight outcomes and can be maintained.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

West, D., Monroe, C., Turner-McGrievy, G., Sundstrom, B., Larsen, C., & Magradey, K. et al. (2016). A Technology-Mediated Behavioral Weight Gain Prevention Intervention for College Students: Controlled, Quasi-Experimental Study. Journal Of Medical Internet Research, 18(6).