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

Colin B. Shore, Gill Hubbard, Trish Gorely, Angus M. Hunter, Stuart D. Galloway (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1003
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date28 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'The match between what is prescribed and reasons for prescribing in exercise referral schemes: a mixed method study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this