Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


School of Exercise & Health Sciences


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Leesa Costello

Second Advisor

Dr Julie Dare


My study used the HeartNET (HN) community to investigate the significance of physical activity and sedentary behaviour for members of online health-promoting communities by using online surveys and netnography. It found concerns about heart health and general health can be both a barrier and an enabler to increasing physical activity or reducing sedentary behaviour.

Gentle efforts to address sedentary behaviour could build confidence to increase physical activity. By offering role models and encouraging friendly rivalry, peer support via an online community (or other type of social networking sites) can increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour. Fun, laughter and peer support can assist in challenging and reducing the tendency to underestimate sedentary behaviour and its health hazards as well as the fear and uncertainty and the perceived constraints to engage with physical activities.

My study highlighted both the value of netnography as an analytic tool and its potential use for strategic and tailored health promoting interventions in online communities and for interventions in other online environments to promote desired behaviours stipulated by community guidelines. Such gentle and respectful interventions would need to take careful account of factors such as age, gender and the individual’s role within the online community.

This study has particular relevance for users of online health-promoting communities and organisations engaged in health promoting activities, especially those operating online and seeking to minimise risks to their members’ health. This research may also encourage online communities and other social networks not focused on health promotion to consider developing strategies to reduce prolonged sitting time and encourage healthier behaviours. Follow-up studies are needed to determine the sustainability and applicability of my conclusions and recommendations in emerging online communities, where smartphones and ‘apps’ are the primary means of internet access, and where wristbands can conveniently and unobtrusively monitor physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Included in

Public Health Commons


Paper Location