Review and recommendations for online physical activity and healthy weight programmes targeted at over 40s.
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The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in Global Health Promotion, 19:2, June 2012 by SAGE Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. ©2012
Issues addressed: Australia’s ageing population is becoming less physically active and increasingly overweight and obese. There is a need to support physical activity and healthy dietary practices to control overweight and obesity and to prevent chronic disease, amongst the middle aged and older population (40+ years). The Internet is emerging as a potentially effective method of delivering health promotion programmes. Methods: Literature relating to online physical activity and nutrition programmes published from 2000-2009 were identified through a search of four databases and by examining reference lists of relevant articles. Results: Eighteen relevant references were identified: 10 online physical activity programmes; and eight online physical activity and nutrition programmes. Twelve studies reported significant short term effects on behaviour change or weight loss, and four studies did not assess behaviour change, but focused on the usefulness of website strategies, attitude changes and/or recruitment methods. Seven studies experienced low retention rates.Conclusions: Evidence to date suggests that the Internet is no more effective than print materials, face-to-face programmes and other health promotion methods. Several studies found positive short term effects from using Internet based programmes, including those aimed at the target group (40+ years). Therefore the use of the Internet as a method for delivering health promotion programmes is worthy of future consideration. So What? The Internet provides an opportunity for health promotion professionals to engage vastly more people in health promotion interventions, as well as providing a tool to interact and engage with them. From a population health perspective this is becoming more important as the incidence of lifestyle related diseases increase among middle to older aged people. Although online physical activity and healthy weight programmes vary in degrees of effectiveness, the Internet cannot be ignored as a future medium for health promotion. More research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of such programmes.
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