The Impact of Social Media Interventions on Weight Reduction and Physical Activity Improvement Among Healthy Adults: Systematic Review

Publication Name

Journal of Medical Internet Research


Background: A sedentary lifestyle and being overweight or obese are well-established cardiovascular risk factors and contribute substantially to the global burden of disease. Changing such behavior is complex and requires support. Social media interventions show promise in supporting health behavior change, but their impact is unclear. Moreover, previous reviews have reported contradictory evidence regarding the relationship between engagement with social media interventions and the efficacy of these interventions. Objective: This review aimed to critically synthesize available evidence regarding the impact of social media interventions on physical activity and weight among healthy adults. In addition, this review examined the effect of engagement with social media interventions on their efficacy. Methods: CINAHL and MEDLINE were searched for relevant randomized trials that were conducted to investigate the impact of social media interventions on weight and physical activity and were published between 2011 and 2021 in the English language. Studies were included if the intervention used social media tools that provided explicit interactions between the participants. Studies were excluded if the intervention was passively delivered through an app website or if the participants had a known chronic disease. Eligible studies were appraised for quality and synthesized using narrative synthesis. Results: A total of 17 papers reporting 16 studies from 4 countries, with 7372 participants, were identified. Overall, 56% (9/16) of studies explored the effect of social media interventions on physical activity; 38% (6/16) of studies investigated weight reduction; and 6% (1/16) of studies assessed the effect on both physical activity and weight reduction. Evidence of the effects of social media interventions on physical activity and weight loss was mixed across the included studies. There were no standard metrics for measuring engagement with social media, and the relationship between participant engagement with the intervention and subsequent behavior change was also mixed. Although 35% (6/16) of studies reported that engagement was not a predictor of behavior change, engagement with social media interventions was found to be related to behavior change in 29% (5/16) of studies. Conclusions: Despite the promise of social media interventions, evidence regarding their effectiveness is mixed. Further robust studies are needed to elucidate the components of social media interventions that lead to successful behavior change. Furthermore, the effect of engagement with social media interventions on behavior change needs to be clearly understood.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access



Article Number


Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



Link to publisher version (DOI)