Objective: A controlled trial to compare the effectiveness of verbal advice from a family physician (FP) combined with either "standard" or "tailored" written information on physical activity in increasing the levels of physical activity in sedentary patients.
Design: Sedentary patients (n = 763) were recruited through ten family practices and allocated to a control group or one of two intervention groups. Brief advice on physical activity was given by the FP during the consultation and either a standard or tailored pamphlet was mailed to the home address of patients assigned to the intervention groups within two days of their visit to the FP.
Results: The response to follow-up, via a postal survey at one, six, and twelve months after the index consultation was 70%, 60%, and 57%, respectively. Treating all nonresponders as sedentary, the results revealed that although more tailored subjects reported some physical activity at each follow-up compared with the standard group, these differences were not significant. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in movement across the stages of readiness to exercise at follow-up between subjects in the tailored group who received material targeting their current stage (precontemplation or contemplation) and the standard group who received generic material that addressed both stages.
Conclusion: These findings do not concur with the results from previous research in the areas of nutrition and smoking cessation where additional benefits were seen with a tailored intervention. Future research on the application of the principles of "tailoring" to the promotion of physical activity should focus on identifying which, if any, physical, social, psychological or environmental variables should be addressed to produce improved outcomes over and above the effects of well designed generic materials.