Pragmatic evaluation of a coproduced physical activity referral scheme: a UK quasi-experimental study

Benjamin Jr Buckley*, Dick Hj Thijssen, Rebecca C Murphy, Lee Ef Graves, Madeleine Cochrane, Fiona Gillison, Diane Crone, Philip M Wilson, Greg Whyte, Paula M Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives UK exercise referral schemes (ERSs) have been criticised for focusing too much on exercise prescription and not enough on sustainable physical activity (PA) behaviour change. Previously, a theoretically grounded intervention (coproduced PA referral scheme, Co-PARS) was coproduced to support long-term PA behaviour change in individuals with health conditions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of Co-PARS compared with a usual care ERS and no treatment for increasing cardiorespiratory fitness.

Design A three-arm quasi-experimental trial.

Setting Two leisure centres providing (1) Co-PARS, (2) usual exercise referral care and one no-treatment control.

Participants 68 adults with lifestyle-related health conditions (eg, cardiovascular, diabetes, depression) were recruited to co-PARS, usual care or no treatment.

Intervention 16-weeks of PA behaviour change support delivered at 4, 8, 12 and 18 weeks, in addition to the usual care 12-week leisure centre access.

Outcome measures Cardiorespiratory fitness, vascular health, PA and mental well-being were measured at baseline, 12 weeks and 6 months (PA and mental well-being only). Fitness centre engagement (co-PARS and usual care) and behaviour change consultation attendance (co-PARS) were assessed. Following an intention-to-treat approach, repeated-measures linear mixed models were used to explore intervention effects.

Results Significant improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness (p=0.002) and vascular health (p=0.002) were found in co-PARS compared with usual care and no-treatment at 12 weeks. No significant changes in PA or well-being at 12 weeks or 6 months were noted. Intervention engagement was higher in co-PARS than usual care, though this was not statistically significant.

Conclusion A coproduced PA behaviour change intervention led to promising improvements in cardiorespiratory and vascular health at 12 weeks, despite no effect for PA levels at 12 weeks or 6 months.

Trial registration number NCT03490747.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere034580
Number of pages11
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Structured keywords

  • HEHP@Bristol


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