Four commonly used methods to increase physical activity

NICE guidelines [PH2] Published date:



This guidance has been partially updated by Walking and cycling (NICE public health guidance 41), and Physical activity: brief advice for adults in primary care (NICE public health guidance 44).

The Department of Health (DH) asked the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE or the Institute) to produce guidance on four common methods used to increase the population's physical activity levels. The four interventions considered are: brief interventions in primary care, exercise referral schemes, pedometers and community-based walking and cycling programmes.

The Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee (PHIAC) considered the reviews of the evidence and an economic appraisal before developing these recommendations. The recommendations take into account the Chief Medical Officer for England's (CMO's) recommendation that adults should achieve at least 30 minutes moderate activity on five or more days of the week[1].

NICE fully endorses the importance of physical activity as a means of promoting good health and preventing disease, and the consequent need to develop comprehensive, multi-sectoral strategies (including innovative approaches) to promote physical activity as part of daily life[2]. NICE also acknowledges that physical activity has a range of benefits beyond direct health outcomes, such as contributing to community cohesion and addressing the needs of vulnerable groups and communities.

This guidance examines only a small number of possible approaches to increasing individual activity levels. The broader environmental and organisational changes needed are the subject of future programme guidance being developed by NICE.

[1] Department of Health (2004) At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health. London: Department of Health.

[2] Including walking, cycling, gardening, household activities and recreational activities.

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