Overweight and obesity among adolescents may have consequences, with potentially lasting effects on health and health-related quality of life (HRQoL). Excess weight is also associated with decreases in physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness. The aim of the current study was to investigate the short-term effects of a 12-week Internet intervention in a primary care setting intended to increase cardiorespiratory fitness and HRQoL among overweight and obese adolescents.
In this controlled trial, participants (13–15 years) were non-randomly allocated to an intervention- or a control group. The intervention group received 12-weeks access to an online program providing tailored physical activity counseling based on principles from Self-determination Theory and Motivational Interviewing. The control group received standard follow-up by the school nurses. The primary outcome measure of cardiorespiratory fitness was determined using a shuttle run test. The secondary outcomes: HRQoL, leisure time exercise, body image and self-determined motivation for physical activity and exercise, were assessed by self-report measures. Age- and gender-adjusted body mass index (BMI) was calculated based on measurements of height and weight. To compare pre-to post intervention differences within groups, a paired samples t-test was used while crude differences between groups were analyzed with an independent samples t-test.
Of the 120 participants, 108 completed the study, 75 in the intervention group and 33 in the control group. Exposure to the intervention had a small effect on cardiorespiratory fitness (0.14; 95% CI [0.01;0.28]; P = 0.04), and a moderate effect on HRQoL (5.22; 95% CI [0.90; 9.53]; P = 0.02). Moreover, the control group increased significantly in BMI, yielding a moderate preventive effect on BMI (−0.39; 95% CI [−0.74;−0.03]; P = 0.03) for the intervention group.
The results suggest that the Internet intervention with tailored physical activity counseling can have beneficial short-term effect on cardiorespiratory fitness, HRQoL and BMI among adolescents with overweight and obesity.