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Logo of brjgenpracRCGP homepageJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralBJGP at RCGPBJGP at RCGP
Br J Gen Pract. 2004 March; 54(500): 189–195.
PMCID: PMC1314829

A randomised controlled trial of three pragmatic approaches to initiate increased physical activity in sedentary patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


BACKGROUND: Physical activity is a major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but it is unclear what combination of feasible approaches, using existing resources in primary care, work best to initiate increased physical activity. AIM: To assess three approaches to initiate increased physical activity. DESIGN OF STUDY: Randomised controlled (2 X 2 X 2) factorial trial. SETTING: Four general practices. METHOD: One hundred and fifty-one sedentary patients with computer documented risk factors for cardiovascular disease were randomised to eight groups defined by three factors: prescription by general practitioners (GPs) for brisk exercise not requiring a leisure facility (for example, walking) 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week; counselling by practice nurses, based on psychological theory to modify intentions and perceived control of behaviour, and using behavioural implementation techniques (for example, contracting, 'rehearsal'); use of the Health Education Authority booklet 'Getting active, feeling fit'. RESULTS: Single interventions had modest effects. There was a trend from the least intensive interventions (control +/- booklet) to the more intensive interventions (prescription and counselling combined +/- booklet) for both increased physical activity and fitness (test for trend, P = 0.02 and P = 0.05, respectively). Only with the most intense intervention (prescription and counselling combined) were there significant increases in both physical activity and fitness from baseline (Godin score = 14.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 7.8 to 21, which was equivalent to three 15-minute sessions of brisk exercise and a 6-minute walking distance = 28.5 m, respectively, 95% CI = 11.1 to 45.8). Counselling only made a difference among those individuals with lower intention at baseline. CONCLUSION: Feasible interventions using available staff, which combine exercise prescription and counselling explicitly based on psychological theory, can probably initiate important increases in physical activity.

Supplementary Material

Supplementary box 1. Types of intervention:
Supplementary table 1. Baseline measurements for each intervention factor:
Supplementary table 2. Box 1. Types of intervention:
Supplementary table 3. Box 1. Types of intervention:

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners