Date of Award

August 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Sciences

First Advisor

Ann M. Swartz

Committee Members

Lori A. Klos, Michael J. Brondino, Scott J. Strath, Amy E. Harley


College Students, Physical Activity, Social Media


During the transition from high school to college, physical activity levels tend to decrease. Given the numerous benefits of regular physical activity, it is essential to encourage college students to develop the habit of being regularly active. The internet is one tool that has been used to deliver physical activity interventions to this population but is hindered by low participant engagement and high monetary cost of development. Social media is an internet entity that can be used to deliver a physical activity intervention that facilitates higher participant engagement and reduces cost. The purpose of this study was to compare the efficacy of an intervention using social media to increase physical activity to an intervention that does not utilize social media in a sample of female college freshmen. Fifty-three insufficiently active female freshmen completed this 8-week, randomized pre-post intervention. Physical activity was measured using steps/day gleaned from a pedometer. Participants were randomized to one of two intervention arms: a walking intervention (WI) group and a walking intervention + Facebook (WI+FB) group. Participants in the WI group (n=26) received educational information on physical activity, a pedometer, step goals, logs to track steps/day, and weekly contact (email) from an intervention leader. Participants in the WI+FB group (n=27) received this same intervention; however, instead of weekly emails, these participants received weekly messages through Facebook. In addition, these participants were enrolled in a Facebook group with seven other participants where they were asked to post information about their steps/day and provide feedback to one another. A mixed effects ANOVA was used to analyze change in steps/day and if this change was different between groups. Results demonstrated that women in both intervention arms significantly increased steps/day (p < .05). However, women in the WI+FB group increased physical activity by 7,293 steps/day, a significantly greater increase (p < .05) than the increase among women in the WI group (4,422 steps/day). These results demonstrate the large potential of a physical activity intervention using social media. Women enrolled in this intervention increased walking by approximately 3.5 miles/day which, if maintained, will have a pronounced impact on their future health.