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01-04-2012 | General practice | Article

GP schemes boost exercise levels


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MedWire News: Physical activity promotion schemes delivered in primary care are moderately successful at increasing patients' activity levels, shows research published in the BMJ.

By contrast, the study found no benefit from exercise referral programmes, leading the researchers to suggest that healthcare commissioners should opt for primary-care-based schemes, at least until further evidence becomes available.

The systematic review and meta-analysis included 15 trials and 8745 participants. Eleven of the studies reported positive effects of interventions promoting exercise on self-reported physical activity levels, relative to control or no intervention.

Pooled analysis of 13 trials showed a small-to-medium effect at 12 months, at an odds ratio of 1.4. In most of the studies, the intervention included written materials and advice or counselling, delivered on multiple occasions either in person or over the telephone by primary care professionals.

Only three trials evaluated referral to exercise programmes - one based in a leisure centre, one forming part of a community walks program, and another based at an unspecified location. None of these trials reported a benefit from the intervention.

Based on the overall findings, the authors estimate that 12 sedentary adults would need to undergo a physical activity intervention for one of them to achieve recommended activity levels, which they say "compares favourably with the estimated number needed to treat of 50-120 for smoking cessation advice".

Dr Gillian Orrow (University of Cambridge, UK) and colleagues also note that, based on the findings of a previous meta-analysis of cohort studies including almost 1 million people, the activity levels seen in the current study "could reduce mortality by about one fifth".

By MedWire Reporters