Document Type

Journal Article


Department of Sport and Physical Education




Background: Ample evidence demonstrates that university students are at high risk for sedentary behaviors and inadequate fruit and vegetable intake (FVI). Internet-based interventions for multiple health behavior appear to be promising in changing such unhealthy habits. Limited randomized controlled trials have tested this assumption among Chinese university students.

Objective: Our objective was to test the efficacy of an 8-week Web-based intervention compared with a control group condition to improve physical activity (PA) and FVI in Chinese university students. The intervention content was based on the health action process approach, and developed on the basis of previous evidence from the Western hemisphere. We evaluated self-reported data including PA and FVI, stages of change for PA and FVI, and motivational (risk perception, outcome expectancies, self-efficacy), volitional (action planning, coping planning, social support), and distal (intention, habit) indicators for PA and FVI, as well as perceived mental health outcomes (quality of life, depression).

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, we recruited 566 university students from one university in the central region of China during their general physical education class. After random allocation and exclusion of unsuitable participants, we assigned 493 students to 1 of 2 groups: (1) intervention group: first 4 weeks on PA and subsequent 4 weeks on FVI, (2) control group. We conducted 3 Web-based assessments: at the beginning of the intervention (T1, n=493), at the end of the 8-week intervention (T2, n=337), and at a 1-month follow-up after the intervention (T3, n=142). The entire study was conducted throughout the fall semester of 2015.

Results: Significant time ⨯ group interactions revealed superior intervention effects on FVI; motivational, volitional, and distal indicators of FVI; and PA behavior changes, with an effect size (η2) ranging from .08 to .20. In addition, the overall intervention effects were significant for stage progression to the action group from T1 to T2 in PA (χ21=11.75, P=.001) and FVI (χ21=15.64, P=.03). Furthermore, the intervention effect was seen in the improvement of quality of life (F3,492=1.23, η2=.03, P=.02).

Conclusions: This study provides evidence for the efficacy of a Web-based multiple health behavior intervention among Chinese university students tested with different outcome variables. Future research should address the high dropout rate and optimize the most effective components of this intervention.

Trial Registration: NCT01909349; (Archived by WebCite at


Web-based intervention, physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, university students, motivational indicators, volitional indicators

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Journal of Medical Internet Research





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Journal of Medical Internet Research

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


This research was supported by a junior research group grant from the Wilhelm-Stiftung für Rehabilitationsforschung in Germany, and a Faculty Research Grant from Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong (FRG2/15-16/032).



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