View all ResearchTeen on a laptop
View all Research

Development of an Accelerometer-Linked Online Intervention System to Promote Physical Activity in Adolescents

Nicole Guthrie,  Andrew Bradlyn,  Sharon K. Thompson,  Sophia Yen,  Jana Haritatos,  Fred Dillon,  and Steve W. Cole 


Most adolescents do not achieve the recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), placing them at increased risk for a diverse array of chronic diseases in adulthood. There is a great need for scalable and effective interventions that can increase MVPA in adolescents. Here we report the results of a measurement validation study and a preliminary proof-of-concept experiment testing the impact of Zamzee, an accelerometer-linked online intervention system that combines proximal performance feedback and incentive motivation features to promote MVPA. In a calibration study that parametrically varied levels of physical activity in 31 12-14 year-old children, the Zamzee activity meter was shown to provide a valid measure of MVPA (sensitivity in detecting MVPA = 85.9%, specificity = 97.5%, and r = .94 correspondence with the benchmark RT3 accelerometer system; all p < .0001). In a subsequent randomized controlled multi-site experiment involving 182 middle school-aged children assessed for MVPA over 6 wks, intent-to-treat analyses found that those who received access to the Zamzee intervention had average MVPA levels 54% greater than those of a passive control group (p < 0.0001) and 68% greater than those of an active control group that received access to a commercially available active videogame (p < .0001). Zamzee’s effects on MVPA did not diminish significantly over the course of the 6-wk study period, and were statistically significant in both females and males, and in normal- vs. high-BMI subgroups. These results provide promising initial indications that combining the Zamzee activity meter with online proximal performance feedback and incentive motivation features can positively impact MVPA levels in adolescents.

Read more in PLOS ONE. 

Related Content

View all Research
picture of imi on a phone screen

Read the results of a randomized control trial conducted on imi, a free, mental health web app, designed to help LGBTQ+ youth cope with stress.

Mother looking down at baby on a bed.

The present study explores barriers and facilitators experienced by public health nurses introducing a mobile health technology platform (Goal Mama) to the Nurse-Family Partnership home-visiting program.

Young person in the foreground looking up, holding a mobile phone

One year into the pandemic, a new survey reveals that teens and young adults are actively turning to online sources to cope with mental health.

Nod mobile application example

Read the results of the pilot randomized controlled trial on the nod smartphone app created to address loneliness among college students.