The main aim of this study was to assess the effects of a fitness assessment and exercise consultation on physical activity over 1 year in non-regularly active participants drawn from a socially and economically deprived community. Of 3000 people invited to volunteer for either intervention, 225 fitness assessment volunteers were randomly assigned to an experimental or control group; 145 exercise consultation volunteers were similarly assigned. Physical activity was measured at baseline, 4 weeks, 3 months (plus an intervention re-test), 6 months and 1 year. Analysis of variance and follow-up Bonferroni analysis showed that, for those not regularly active at baseline, physical activity increased significantly to 4 weeks, was maintained to 6 months but had fallen by 1 year. Only those receiving an exercise consultation significantly increased their physical activity after 1 year. Compared with fitness assessments, chi-square analysis showed that significantly more non-regularly active participants volunteered for an exercise consultation and those receiving an exercise consultation had significantly better long-term study adherence than those receiving a fitness assessment. The study also showed that, contrary to popular opinion, those in a socially and economically deprived community are not 'hard to reach' and respond well to physical activity interventions.