Article Text

An evaluation of the efficacy of the exercise on referral scheme in Northumberland, UK: association with physical activity and predictors of engagement. A naturalistic observation study
  1. Coral L Hanson1,
  2. Linda J Allin1,
  3. Jason G Ellis2,
  4. Caroline J Dodd-Reynolds1
  1. 1Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Coral L Hanson; coral.hanson{at}


Objectives Exercise on referral schemes (ERS) are widely commissioned in the UK but there is little evidence of their association with physical activity levels. We sought to assess the Northumberland exercise on referral scheme in terms of increased levels of physical activity and identify predictors of engagement.

Design A naturalistic observational study.

Setting 9 local authority leisure sites in Northumberland.

Participants 2233 patients referred from primary and secondary care between July 2009 and September 2010.

Intervention A 24-week programme including motivational consultations and supervised exercise sessions for participants.

Outcome measures Uptake, 12-week adherence, 24-week completion, changes in Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire scores after 24-weeks and attendance levels at supervised exercise sessions during the scheme. Three binary logistic regressions were used to examine demographic and referral factors associated with initial uptake, 12-week adherence and 24-week completion.

Results Uptake was 81% (n=1811), 12-week adherence was 53.5% (n=968) and 24-week completion was 42.9% (n=777). Participants who completed significantly increased their self-reported physical activity levels at 24-weeks t (638)=−11.55, p<0.001. Completers attended a mean of 22.87 (12.47 SD) of a target 48 supervised sessions. Increasing age, being female and leisure site were associated with uptake, increasing age, Index of Multiple Deprivation and leisure site were associated with 12-week adherence and Body Mass Index and leisure site were associated with 24-week completion. Each regression significantly increased the prediction accuracy of stage of exit (non-starters vs starters 81.5%, dropouts before 12 weeks vs 12-week adherers 66.9%, and dropouts between 13 and 24 weeks 82.2%).

Conclusions Completers of the Northumberland ERS increased physical activity at 24 weeks, although the levels achieved were below the current UK guidelines of 150 min of moderate exercise per week. Leisure site was associated with uptake, adherence and completion.


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