Public health guidelines have called for innovative and flexible physical activity (PA) intervention strategies to promote PA and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, this study’s purpose was to examine the effects of a home-based, YouTube-delivered PA intervention grounded in self-determination theory (SDT) on young adults’ free-living PA, sedentary behavior (SB), and sleep quality (NCT04499547).
Sixty-four young adults (48 females; age: 22.8 ± 3.4 years, mean ± SD; BMI = 23.1 ± 2.6 kg/m) were randomized (1:1) into the intervention group, which received weekly aerobic and muscle-strengthening PA videos, or control group, which received weekly general health education videos, for 12 weeks. Our primary outcome was free-living moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and our secondary outcomes were SB, light PA (LPA), and sleep quality (measured using ActiGraph accelerometers) along with muscle-strengthening PA frequency, SDT-related motivation (non-regulation, external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, integrated regulation, and intrinsic regulation), and perceived PA barriers (assessed using validated questionnaires). Repeated measures ANOVAs examined between-group differences at an adjusted significance level of 0.004 and effect sizes as partial eta-squared (η).
We observed statistically significant interaction effects for MVPA, sleep efficiency, muscle-strengthening PA frequency, non-regulation, integrated regulation, intrinsic regulation, and perceived PA barriers (F(1, 62) = 10.75-77.67, p < 0.001-0.002, η = 0.15-0.56) with all outcomes favoring the intervention group. We observed no statistically significant differences in either group for SB, LPA, sleep duration, or external, introjected, and identified regulations after 12 weeks (F(1, 62) = 1.11-3.64, p = 0.06-0.61).
With national COVID-19 restrictions still in place and uncertainty regarding post-pandemic PA environments and behaviors, a remote, YouTube-delivered PA intervention may help foster clinically meaningful improvements in young adults’ free-living MVPA, muscle-strengthening PA frequency, sleep efficiency, PA-related intrinsic motivation, and perceived PA barriers.

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