Feasibility, acceptability, and potential impact of a participaction app-based intervention to improve university students' movement behaviours and mental well-being: A proof-of-concept study


To improve university students' movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, sleep) and mental well-being, a theory-driven multiple behaviour change intervention was co-produced and implemented in the ParticipACTION app. This proof-of-concept study examined the feasibility, acceptability, and potential impact of the app-based intervention. First-year students from Queen's University and the University of British Columbia self-referred to the study. Eligible students accessed the 6-week app intervention and completed baseline and post-intervention questionnaires assessing awareness and knowledge of the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (24HMG), mental well-being, and capability, opportunity, and motivation (COM) for engaging in movement behaviours. Movement behaviours were tracked using Fitbits. Engagement was tracked through the app. Following the intervention, semi-structured interviews were conducted with interested participants to explore intervention experiences and satisfaction. Of the 303 self-referred students, 68 enrolled in the study and 13 completed an interview. Only 63% of participants engaged with app content, and app engagement decreased over the 6-week period; however, daily minutes of movement behaviours remained relatively stable throughout the intervention. More participants were aware of, and knowledgeable about, the 24HMG at post-intervention (100%) versus baseline (55.8%). Participants reported moderate COM to engage in movement behaviours at both time points (all COM scores >6.04/10). There was a small effect size increase in participants' mean mental well-being from baseline to post-intervention (d=0.16). Participants offered recommendations to enhance the relevancy of the app content. Lessons learned about the co-production and implementation of an app-based intervention along with next steps will be discussed.

Acknowledgments: Funding was provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada with support from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and ParticipACTION. This project was possible due to the contributions of members of the Student Intervention Working Group not listed as authors: Beth Blackett (Queen's University); Matt Dolf (University of British Columbia); Kirstin Lane (University of Victoria; Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology); Zach Weston (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology); Melissa Brouwers (University of Ottawa).