University of Oulu

Leinonen AM, Pyky R, Ahola R, Kangas M, Siirtola P, Luoto T, Enwald H, Ikäheimo TM, Röning J, Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi S, Mäntysaari M, Korpelainen R, Jämsä T Feasibility of Gamified Mobile Service Aimed at Physical Activation in Young Men: Population-Based Randomized Controlled Study (MOPO), JMIR Mhealth Uhealth 2017;5(10):e146, URL:, doi:10.2196/mhealth.6675, PMID:29017991

Feasibility of gamified mobile service aimed at physical activation in young men : population-based randomized controlled study (MOPO)

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Author: Leinonen, Anna-Maiju1,2,3; Pyky, Riitta1,3,4,5; Ahola, Riikka1,6;
Organizations: 1Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Infotech Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Oulu Deaconess Institute, Department of Sports and Exercise Medicine, Oulu, Finland
4Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital and University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
5Center for Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Polar Electro, Kempele, Finland
7Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
8Department of Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
9Department of Information and Communication Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
10Center for Environmental and Respiratory Health Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
11Health Center of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
12Center for Military Medicine, The Finnish Defence Forces, Helsinki, Finland
13Diagnostic Radiology, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: JMIR Publications, 2017
Publish Date: 2017-11-13


Background: The majority of young people do not meet the recommendations on physical activity for health. New innovative ways to motivate young people to adopt a physically active lifestyle are needed.

Objective: The study aimed to study the feasibility of an automated, gamified, tailored Web-based mobile service aimed at physical and social activation among young men.

Methods: A population-based sample of 496 young men (mean age 17.8 years [standard deviation 0.6]) participated in a 6-month randomized controlled trial (MOPO study). Participants were randomized to an intervention (n=250) and a control group (n=246). The intervention group was given a wrist-worn physical activity monitor (Polar Active) with physical activity feedback and access to a gamified Web-based mobile service, providing fitness guidelines, tailored health information, advice of youth services, social networking, and feedback on physical activity. Through the trial, the physical activity of the men in the control group was measured continuously with an otherwise similar monitor but providing only the time of day and no feedback. The primary outcome was the feasibility of the service based on log data and questionnaires. Among completers, we also analyzed the change in anthropometry and fitness between baseline and 6 months and the change over time in weekly time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Results: Mobile service users considered the various functionalities related to physical activity important. However, compliance of the service was limited, with 161 (64.4%, 161/250) participants visiting the service, 118 (47.2%, 118/250) logging in more than once, and 41 (16.4%, 41/250) more than 5 times. Baseline sedentary time was higher in those who uploaded physical activity data until the end of the trial (P=.02). A total of 187 (74.8%, 187/250) participants in the intervention and 167 (67.9%, 167/246) in the control group participated in the final measurements. There were no differences in the change in anthropometry and fitness from baseline between the groups, whereas waist circumference was reduced in the most inactive men within the intervention group (P=.01). Among completers with valid physical activity data (n=167), there was a borderline difference in the change in mean daily time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity between the groups (11.9 min vs −9.1 min, P=.055, linear mixed model). Within the intervention group (n=87), baseline vigorous physical activity was inversely associated with change in moderate to vigorous physical activity during the trial (R=−.382, P=.01).

Conclusions: The various functionalities related to physical activity of the gamified tailored mobile service were considered important. However, the compliance was limited. Within the current setup, the mobile service had no effect on anthropometry or fitness, except reduced waist circumference in the most inactive men. Among completers with valid physical activity data, the trial had a borderline positive effect on moderate to vigorous physical activity. Further development is needed to improve the feasibility and adherence of an integrated multifunctional service.

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Series: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
ISSN: 2291-5222
ISSN-E: 2291-5222
ISSN-L: 2291-5222
Volume: 5
Issue: 10
Article number: e146
DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.6675
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 217 Medical engineering
315 Sport and fitness sciences
3141 Health care science
3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
213 Electronic, automation and communications engineering, electronics
520 Other social sciences
Funding: This study was funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture (DNRO 125/627/2009, 98/627/2010, 97/627/2011); Centre for Military Medicine; Centre for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment of North Ostrobothnia (European Social Fund, project number S11580); the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (European Regional Development Fund, 70037/2010 and 70035/2011), the Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District; Infotech Oulu; the Juho Vainio Foundation; and the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
Copyright information: ©Anna-Maiju Leinonen, Riitta Pyky, Riikka Ahola, Maarit Kangas, Pekka Siirtola, Tim Luoto, Heidi Enwald, Tiina M Ikäheimo, Juha Röning, Sirkka Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi, Matti Mäntysaari, Raija Korpelainen, Timo Jämsä. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (, 10.10.2017. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR mhealth and uhealth, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.