My take on “Dutch Young Adults Ratings of Behavior Change Techniques Applied in Mobile Phone Apps to Promote Physical Activity: A Cross-Sectional Survey”

February 4, 2016


There is something very special about Netherlands when it comes to physical activity. A large portion of Dutch population exceeds physical activity recommendation without even noticing it. This phenomenon has to do with the history of this country, its roads, and the climate. In the 50s and 60s, after the WWII, car ownership sharply increased and by the 70s, street congestion combined with the mid 70s oil crisis, urged the Dutch to use bikes as the main means of transportation. Biking has been thriving ever since, which is not surprising considering the flatness of the country and how diligent their government is when it comes to ensuring safety and comfort of bikers. The Dutch have one of the largest and safest dedicated cycle paths and their climate is surprisingly mild for the geographic location. The results of all of this are staggering: nearly 70% are using bikes for commuting in the cities and overall, more than 30% bike for commute nationwide.


In the paper, the authors asked over 200 young and healthy (mean age 24.33y and mean BMI 22.05) individuals from Denmark to fill out two questionnaires: one for determining their personality traits and the other for determining their preferences for hypothetical features (features derived from the 93-taxonomy of Michie et al.) they would like to have in a hypothetical mobile physical activity related app.


The majority showcased strong preference of features related to “self-monitoring” and “personal-coach”. Features related to social support did not win a lot of votes from the respondents. Overall, the participants favored features geared towards self-regulation.


These findings might come as a surprise considering that millennials (the target demographic of the study) are known as the most socially active generation that “grew up on facebook”. Frankly, it is not obvious as to why they did not express much interest for social support. Perhaps it is because the term “social support” was not clearly operationalized? Perhaps if they used actual apps with actual social support features they would have rated the said features differently? Or perhaps the questions should have been “adapted” to the environment where the respondents live and the dominant physical activity that occurs in the environment?


Just as a side-note, the paper never mentioned any of the following words: “bike”, “bicycle” and “biking”.


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