Open Access Research article

Evaluating Active U: an internet-mediated physical activity program

Lorraine R Buis1, Timothy A Poulton2, Robert G Holleman3, Ananda Sen4, Paul J Resnick5, David E Goodrich3, LaVaughn Palma-Davis6 and Caroline R Richardson37*

Author affiliations

1 Wayne State University College of Nursing, 5557 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

2 University of Michigan Medical School, 1018 Fuller St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1213, USA

3 Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, 1018 Fuller St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1213, USA

4 Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Center for Clinical Management Research, HSR&D/SMITREC (11H), P.O. Box 130170, Ann Arbor, MI 48113-0170, USA

5 Center for Statistical Consultation and Research (CSCAR) and Department of Statistics, 3550 Rackham, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1070 USA

6 University of Michigan School of Information, 314 West Hall, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1092, USA

7 University of Michigan Health & Well-Being Services, MWorks & MFit, 2850 S Industrial #600, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-6773, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2009, 9:331  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-331

Published: 10 September 2009



Engaging in regular physical activity can be challenging, particularly during the winter months. To promote physical activity at the University of Michigan during the winter months, an eight-week Internet-mediated program (Active U) was developed providing participants with an online physical activity log, goal setting, motivational emails, and optional team participation and competition.


This study is a program evaluation of Active U. Approximately 47,000 faculty, staff, and graduate students were invited to participate in the online Active U intervention in the winter of 2007. Participants were assigned a physical activity goal and were asked to record each physical activity episode into the activity log for eight weeks. Statistics for program reach, effectiveness, adoption, and implementation were calculated using the Re-Aim framework. Multilevel regression analyses were used to assess the decline in rates of data entry and goal attainment during the program, to assess the likelihood of joining a team by demographic characteristics, to test the association between various predictors and the number of weeks an individual met his or her goal, and to analyze server load.


Overall, 7,483 individuals registered with the Active U website (≈16% of eligible), and 79% participated in the program by logging valid data at least once. Staff members, older participants, and those with a BMI < 25 were more likely to meet their weekly physical activity goals, and average rate of meeting goals was higher among participants who joined a competitive team compared to those who participated individually (IRR = 1.28, P < .001).


Internet-mediated physical activity interventions that focus on physical activity logging and goal setting while incorporating team competition may help a significant percentage of the target population maintain their physical activity during the winter months.