Internet-based interventions are effective for improving health (e.g., Lustria, Cortese, Noar, & Glueckauf, 2009
; Murray, Burns, See Tai, & Nazareth, 2005
). For example, results from a Cochrane review indicated that “interactive health communication applications,” which are usually Internet-based, are effective for increasing knowledge and may improve outcomes (Murray et al., 2005
). Similarly, a recent review found that Internet-based interventions that are tailored to the individual show promise for improved health (Lustria et al., 2009
). Several studies have examined the efficacy of Internet-based interventions specifically targeting physical activity (for reviews see Ciccolo, Lewis, & Marcus, 2008
, Vandelanotte, Spathonis, Eakin, & Owen, 2007
) and have found that Internet-based physical activity interventions appear to be similarly efficacious to previously validated interventions (Ciccolo et al., 2008
Despite the increased research examining Internet-based physical activity interventions, there is a lack of studies examining the cost associated with these interventions (Murray et al., 2005
; Murray, 2008
). Several studies have examined the cost of delivering physical activity interventions; however, a majority of these studies included face-to-face interventions (Elley et al., 2004
; Proper et al., 2004
; Sevick et al., 2000
; Stevens, Hillsdon, Thorogood, & McArdle, 1998
). Only one study, that we are aware of, has examined the cost-effectiveness of non face-to-face interventions for physical activity promotion. Specifically, Sevick and colleagues (2007)
found that a print intervention was more cost-effective than a telephone intervention. The cost of moving a participant from sedentary to active status during the first 6 months of the intervention was $1,290 for the telephone intervention and $756 for the print intervention. The costs were $3,967 and $955 at 12 months, respectively.
The purpose of the present study was to examine the relative cost of an Internet and print-based physical activity intervention that were matched for content and were equally efficacious (Marcus, Lewis, Williams, Dunsiger, Jakicic, et al., 2007; Marcus, Lewis, Williams, Whiteley, Albrecht et al., 2007). No study, that we are aware of, has examined the cost of an Internet-based physical activity intervention relative to another mode of delivery. It is a widely held belief among researchers that Internet-based physical activity interventions are less costly than traditional modes of delivery such as print. However, there is a lack of empirical data to support this widely held belief. Internet-based interventions can be very costly to develop and therefore, it is important to examine Internet-based interventions relative to other modes of delivery. It is also important to examine at what point (i.e., number of participants) Internet interventions become more cost efficient than other types of interventions. For the current study, it was hypothesized that a theory-based, individually-tailored Internet intervention, though more expensive to develop, would be less expensive than a print intervention as the number of participants increased.