Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in young men. The determinants and effectiveness of a tailored, mobile, gamified intervention.

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

ODL Hyvinvointikeskus, Wegeliussali, Albertinkatu 16

Topic of the dissertation

Physical activity and sedentary behaviour in young men. The determinants and effectiveness of a tailored, mobile, gamified intervention.

Doctoral candidate

Master's degree in Sports Sciences Riitta Pyky

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Center for Life Course Health Research and Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology

Subject of study

Sports medicine


professor Mirja Hirvensalo, University of Jyväskylä


professor Raija Korpelainen, University of Oulu

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Physically inactive youth activated by games

Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour (SB) are harmful to health, but both globally and in Finland, 80% of adolescents are not physically active enough and they sit too much. Unhealthy behaviour seems to accumulate in young men. Factors underlying unhealthy behaviour should be identified, and based on these, effective interventions for health promotion should be developed.

In this study we aimed to clarify the determinants of physical activity (PA) and SB in young men. In addition, we studied the effects of a gamified, tailored, mobile PA intervention on PA and subjective wellbeing. Population-based data were collected in call-ups organized by the Finnish Defence Forces in 2010, 2012 and 2013 in the Oulu area, Finland. Altogether 2526 approximately 18-year-old men filled in a questionnaire, attended physical performance tests and went through a medical examination.

In 2013, all 811 men who attended physiological measurements were invited to participate in a six-month randomized controlled trial, and 496 (61%) of them agreed to do so and were randomized into intervention (n=250) and control (n=246) groups. The intervention group got access to a mobile service developed in this study. PA and SB were continuously monitored during the trial. The PA and SB of the controls was measured without feedback on behaviour.

The profiles “exercising but sitting”, “feeling unhappy”, “symptoms of disordered eating”, “being unfit with appearance-related motivation” and “gaming” were found among the sedentary young men. The men living in both built and natural environments were equally physically active. The mother’s PA was associated with PA in men living in the built environment and the father’s PA with PA among natural environment residents.

The intervention had a borderline positive effect on moderate-to-vigorous PA, but there was no change in SB or light PA. Life satisfaction improved both in the intervention group and the control group. Various functionalities related to the PA of the mobile service were considered important. However, the compliance in using the service was limited. Improvements in PA, self-rated health and life satisfaction were seen, especially among the men in the intervention group with low levels of PA and poor subjective wellbeing at baseline.

This study complements existing knowledge on the PA and SB of youth and the findings on the effects of technology-based PA promotion. The study adds to literature on individual, environmental and parental factors underlying SB and PA in young men. These findings highlight the importance of individually designed health promotion among young men.
Last updated: 1.3.2023