Internet and Social Network as Health/Physical Activity Information Sources

Internet and Social Network as Health/Physical Activity Information Sources

Dulce Esteves (Beira Interior University, Portugal & CIDESD - Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health and Human Development, Portugal), Paulo Pinheiro (Beira Interior University, Portugal & NECE - Research Center in Business Sciences, Portugal), Kelly O'Hara (Beira Interior University, Portugal & CIDESD - Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health and Human Development, Portugal) and Rui Brás (Beira Interior University, Portugal & CIDESD - Research Center in Sports Sciences, Health and Human Development, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9978-6.ch049

Chapter Preview



The Internet increasingly serves as a platform for the delivery of health information and its potential use as health information source has been demonstrated across a wide range of conditions (Bennett & Glasgow, 2009).

The Internet has been acknowledged as a valuable channel of health promotion, with information in web spread throw static health educational sites, peer support groups, online health consultations and delivery of Internet interventions (Vandelanotte, Spathonis, Eakin, & Owen, 2007).

Health information seeking is defined as the purposive acquisition of information from selected information sources to guide health-related decision making (Johnson & Case, 2012).

Health information seeking behavior comprehends intentional or active efforts to obtain specific information not found by the normal patterns of media exposure or by interpersonal sources (Atkin, 1973; Griffin, Dunwoody, & Neuwirth, 1999).

Lambert and Loiselle (2007) consider two main dimensions when defining the concept of Health information seeking behavior: (1) the information dimension, that emphasizes the characteristics of the information sought, namely the type (content and diversity of the search) and the amount (how much information about a given topic one seeks) and (2) the method dimension, focused on the discretionary actions individual use to obtain health related information and sources of information used (include direct and indirect questioning, asking for clarifications, discussing and exchanging information with others, reading and using information technologies).

Considering the information dimension of health information seeking behavior, Weaver et al. (2009) consider the existence of two main groups: one more related to medicine (with high loadings on the medications, illness or disease, treatments and insurance measures) and other related with wellbeing (with high loadings on the exercise and diet measures). Physical Activity (PA) information seeking on the Internet is considered as a sub-level of health information seeking by Pew Surveys (Jones & Fox, 2009). This article intends to present the potentialities, problems and future trends of the use of the Internet and online Social Networks (SN) as PA information sources and promoting channels and the actual perspective of associated technology to become active.



Regular moderate-intensity PA influences health status and wellbeing, with important role in the prevention of various chronic diseases (Klavestrand & Vingård, 2009). In fact, the benefits of PA on health have been extensively reported by World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA), American College of Sport Medicine, American Heart Association, European Community (EU Working Group “Sport & Health”). Embracing an active lifestyle is broadly seen as an important step to achieve good health status and wellbeing, among all ages.

The exponential growth and penetration of new information technologies may affect the PA patterns, since those technologies

  • 1.

    May be an adequate channel to delivery PA promotion policies, and

  • 2.

    They are an important information repository that individuals can use to seek for exercise and fitness information.

Considering the importance of exercise on health status, Fox and Jones (2009) report a huge interest in information about exercise and fitness by Internet users. The percentage of American adults getting PA information online increased from 21% in 2002 to 38% in 2009, the major evolution of the health topic covered in the survey. Pew Project report showed that 72% of online 18-29 year olds use SN websites, and 31% of online teens (aged 12-17) get their information on health, dieting or PA from the Internet (Gabarron, Fernandez-Luque, Armayones, & Lau, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Health and Fitness Smartphone Applications (Apps): Software programs designed specifically to run on mobile devices, included in “health and fitness” category in Apple’s App-Store that aim to improve health status and/or exercise behavior.

Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity: PA performed with a moderate amount of the effort and noticeably accelerates heart-rate. Examples: walking briskly, dancing, gardening, housework, recreational sports games, moving moderate loads.

Pedometer: Device that count the number of steps taken throughout the day.

Accelerometers: Technology for body acceleration record, providing detailed information about the frequency, duration, intensity and patterns of movement.

Physical Activity Online Social Networks: Communities of people who gather online to share information, knowledge, and opinions focused on physical activity.

Wellbeing: A phenomenological expression by the individual about the quality of his/her life. Emotional, self-concept, bodily state, global perceptions, health and life satisfactions are considered the main domains of wellbeing.

Physical Activity Information Seeking: Action considered as a sub-level of health information seeking by Pew Surveys. Regarding health information seeking literature considers two groups: one more related to illness and other related with wellbeing (intend to retrieve exercise and diet information).

Internet Based Interventions to Promote Physical Activity: Also called e-intervention to promote PA are organized (usually by a research team or by exercise and health professionals), population restricted, usually free of charges interventions designed to promote PA using the Internet (exclusively or with other delivery modes like telephone, face-to-face or text messages).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: