Prevention Science

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 863–872 | Cite as

Mobile App-Based Small-Group Physical Activity Intervention for Young African American Women: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Jingwen ZhangEmail author
  • John B. Jemmott III


A lack of adequate physical activity among young African American women remains a serious public health challenge. Few evidence-based interventions are available to increase physical activity in this population, and none has leveraged mobile technologies, even though African Americans are among the most avid users of mobile applications (apps). We conducted a pilot randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of a mobile app-based small-group intervention in increasing physical activity among African American women aged 18 to 35 years (N = 91) in Philadelphia, PA. Cohorts of eight participants were randomized in a 1:1 ratio to a 4-women small-group intervention or an individual control condition. Control participants used the app to track their own activities. Small-group participants could track their own activities and those of the other three women in their group and could message the other women using a chatting tool. The primary outcome was meeting the goal of engaging in at least 90 min/day of light physical activity during the 3-month study period objectively assessed by a Fitbit device. Data were collected in 2016 and analyzed in 2017. Group participants had higher odds of meeting the goal (OR = 1.48, p = .048) than did control participants, an effect that did not wane during the 3-month study period. Irrespective of condition, participants had lower body-mass index (p = .01) and performed more push-ups (p < .0001) at the 1-month and 3-month assessments compared with the baseline measures. Mobile apps facilitating small online groups can contribute to efforts to increase physical activity among young African American women.

This study is registered at NCT02736903.


Mobile applications Women Exercise Social support Wearable electronic devices African Americans 



The authors appreciate the contributions of Janet Hsu, BA, Mikia Croom, MSEd, Peter Danzig, MA, Rafael Perez, MA, and Brittney Raglin to the implementation of this research. The contributions of Han Sun, MS, and Ze Li, PhD, to the design and implementation of the mobile application system are gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was reviewed and approved by University of Pennsylvania’s IRB. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Perelman School of Medicine and Annenberg School for CommunicationUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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