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Background: Exercise referral schemes (ERSs) support inactive adults, who have chronic health conditions, to become physically active. Uncertainty exists regarding the effectiveness of ERSs, with few studies evaluating their long-term impact. The aims of this study were to evaluate the long-term impact (12 mo) of participation in an ERS on self-reported physical activity (PA) and a range of health-related outcomes. Methods: Data were analyzed for participants of a 24-week ERS who attended a week 52 follow-up between July 2015 and 2017. PA and health-related outcomes collected at weeks 1, 24, and 52 were analyzed using the Friedman test and Wilcoxon signed-ranks test. Results: A total of 273 participants attended the week 52 follow-up. Self-reported PA significantly increased by a median of 636 MET minutes at week 52. There were also significant improvements in body mass index, systolic blood pressure, mental well-being, and health-related quality of life. Conclusions: For every 8 participants referred to this 24-week ERS, 1 participant went on to show long-term improvements in at least 1 health indicator. The evidence base requires further long-term evaluations to confirm these findings across a range of ERS providers. Changes in self-reported PA would be supported by the inclusion of device-based measurment of PA.
The authors are with the School of Health Sciences, University of Salford, Greater Manchester, Salford, United Kingdom.