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.


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?

We checked this guideline in July 2018. We found no new evidence that affects the recommendations in this guideline. We have withdrawn recommendation 3 as it was considered to duplicate content from recommendation 2.

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline updates and replaces recommendation 5 in NICE guideline PH2 (March 2006).

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 and practitioners are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or the people using their service. It is not mandatory to apply the recommendations, and the guideline does not override the responsibility to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual, in consultation with them and their families and carers or guardian.

All problems (adverse events) related to a medicine or medical device used for treatment or in a procedure should be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency using the Yellow Card Scheme.

Local commissioners and providers of healthcare have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual professionals and people using services 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 complying 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)