TitleHow Credible Is Online Physical Activity Advice? The Accuracy of Free Adult Educational Materials
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsThomas, JD, Cardinal, BJ
JournalTranslational Journal of the ACSM
Pagination82 - 91
Date Published05/2020


The study purpose was to determine the rate that free online educational resources presented at least one message consistent with national physical activity guidelines (PAGs). We also tested if message consistency varied by production source.


The Google search engine and lay adult search strategies were used to locate freely available web articles focused on physical activity promotion, written in English, used text as the primary communication medium, and produced by a commercial, government, professional association, or voluntary health agency organization. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 18 to 64 yr of age were used to appraise the credibility of messages in web articles.


A sample of 72 web articles published or updated between 2008 and 2018 (M = 2016.34, SD = 2.02) was obtained, all of which presented PAG-related messages. The rate that web articles lacked at least one consistent message ranged from 61.1% to 100% for the 17 PAGs considered. Per the χ2 goodness-of-fit test, the level of inconsistency was significant for 15 PAGs (P < 0.05). Per the χ2 test, production source was associated with consistency for five PAGs, all related to aerobic (endurance) physical activity (P ≤ 0.05, V ≥ 0.30); otherwise, the rate of web article inconsistency was similar between production sources (P > 0.05, V = 0.11–0.26). The lowest rate of web article consistency (M ≈ 3%) involved PAGs for adults with sedentary or modestly active lifestyles.


Knowledge translation of PAGs is low in free resources that are available online, irrespective of production source. Implications of our results to physical activity equity are discussed, and future research recommendations are provided.

Short TitleTranslational Journal of the ACSM