The match between what is prescribed and reasons for prescribing in exercise referral schemes: a mixed method study



Shore CB, Hubbard G, Gorely T, Hunter AM & Galloway SD (2021) The match between what is prescribed and reasons for prescribing in exercise referral schemes: a mixed method study. BMC Public Health, 21 (1), Art. No.: 1003.

Background Exercise referral schemes (ERS) aim to tackle non-communicable disease (NCD) by increasing physical activity levels through prescribed exercise. However, there is a sparsity of knowledge upon what exercises are prescribed and if they are targeted towards tackling NCD. Method Mixed methods were employed. Quantitative data was extracted from exercise prescription cards of 50 participants and were assessed for frequency, intensity, type and time of prescribed exercise. Descriptive measures of aggregate data are expressed as median (range: minimum-maximum). Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews generated qualitative data on exercise referral instructors’ experiences of prescribing exercise. Results Thirty-eight different types of exercise were prescribed. Median prescription was 4 (1–11) exercises per session, at a moderate intensity. Participants were prescribed a median of 35 (5–70) minutes of aerobic exercise per referral session. Exercise referral instructors prescribed exercise to improve activities of daily living, promote independence and autonomy of participants, rather than explicitly targeting the referral condition. Conclusions Knowledge that prescribed exercises are not explicitly targeted to the referral condition provides critical information in understanding the purpose of exercise prescription. Future evaluations of ERS should be mindful of this, that is, perceived outcomes might not match up to what is being prescribed within ERS.

Prescription; Community-based research; Exercise prescription; Measurement; Physical activity; Public health practice; Surveillance

BMC Public Health: Volume 21, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online28/05/2021
Date accepted by journal17/05/2021
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

People (3)


Professor Stuart Galloway

Professor Stuart Galloway

Professor, Sport

Professor Angus Hunter

Professor Angus Hunter

Honorary Professor, FHSS Management and Support

Dr Colin Shore

Dr Colin Shore

Lecturer, Sport