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Eval Rev. 2012 Dec;36(6):407-29. doi: 10.1177/0193841X12474452.

Exploring the perceptions of success in an exercise referral scheme: a mixed method investigation.

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Department of Sport Science, Tourism and Leisure, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, United Kingdom.



Exercise referral schemes feature as one of the prevalent primary care physical activity interventions in the United Kingdom, without extensive understanding of how those involved in providing and participating view success. The present research explores and reveals the constituents of "success," through comparison, contradiction, and integration of qualitative and quantitative research findings.


A population-based cohort design formed the basis for a mixed method approach to the research. The quantitative component used a three-stage binary logistic regression to identify patient sociodemographic characteristics and referral reasons associated with three outcomes (n=1,315). The qualitative component (n=28) comprised four focus groups with patients (n=17), individual interviews with exercise providers (n=4), and referring health professionals (n=7). The research components were compared at discussion stage to offer insights into the concept of "success."


The integrated findings highlighted the multidimensional nature of the concept of success, containing a wide range of concepts such as empowerment, inclusion, and confidence. The traditional notions of success such as, attendance, weight loss, and blood pressure reduction featured amid a more holistic view which incorporated psychological and social aspects as both influences and outcomes.


These findings can enable future development of more representative evaluations of the benefits of exercise referral. This mixed methods research approach can facilitate the development of sophisticated, tailored, evidence-based interventions in the future.


behavioural; design; evaluation; healthcare; physical activity; policy; qualitative

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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