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Long-term engagement with a practice-based exercise referral scheme: Patients’ perceptions of effectiveness

Martyn Queen, Diane Crone, Andrew Parker


Objectives Limited and contradictory evidence exists on the long-term effectiveness of exercise referral schemes (ERS) for physical activity promotion and its impact on perceived health status. The intention of this study was to investigate patients’ views of a physical activity intervention on their self-assessed health status.

Methods A longitudinal qualitative study design was employed with 12 patients aged 55 – 74, attending a primary care physical activity intervention. Semi-structured interviews took place on three occasions over a 12 month period in a Primary Care Health Centre. Transcripts of recorded interviews were coded and thematically analysed using grounded theory techniques.

Results The majority of patients believed that their engagement with the Scheme and resultant long-term increase in physical activity behaviour, helped to improve their health status. This was evident through improved perceptions of medical conditions, through stabilisation or reductions in medication and visits to medical services.

Conclusion The findings show the value of a long-term physical activity intervention in a Primary Care setting, through increases in physical activity levels and patients self-assessed health status. These findings can serve as guide for future service commissioners of ERS.


Grounded theory, health and wellbeing, interpretive methods, interviews, longitudinal study, person-centered healthcare, physical activity, primary care, qualitative analysis

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