This guideline covers exercise referral schemes for people aged 19 and older, in particular, those who are inactive or sedentary. The aim is to encourage people to be physically active.

We found no new evidence that affects the recommendations in this guideline. including myocardial infarction, stroke, chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, low back pain and chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (or encephalopathy).


This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • Policy makers and commissioners in local authorities and the NHS.
  • Primary care practitioners and other practitioners with physical activity as part of their remit
  • Providers of exercise referral schemes
  • Organisations that provide exercise qualifications and accreditation
  • Members of the public

Is this guideline up to date?

Next review: To be scheduled

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline updates and replaces recommendation 5 in four commonly used methods to increase physical activity.

This guideline was previously called exercise and referral schemes to promote physical activity.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)