Background: Inadequate monitoring and participant profiling have so far prevented a detailed examination of who Physical Activity Referral Schemes (PARS) are accessible to and appropriate for. As a result, the nature of the role for PARS within public health is unknown.
Methods: Participants were all those referred to a countywide PARS during a three-year period (n = 3568). Participant age, gender and the deprivation level and rurality of their area of residence were compared with the average for the county population. Characteristics associated with referral uptake (attending > or =1 exercise session) and completion (> or =80% attendance), were identified using logistic regression.
Results: Compared with the county average, participants were older, more predominantly female (61.1 vs 51.4%) and lived in more deprived areas (p < 0.001). Referral uptake (n = 2864) was most likely in those aged 60-69 years, and least likely for residents of rural villages and the most deprived areas (all p < 0.001). For participants who took up referral, completion was most likely in men and the over-seventies (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: The PARS format may be inappropriate for younger adults or people living in relative deprivation and rural areas. They appear most appropriate for adults of middle-to-old age who are more likely to require supervision, and should be targeted accordingly.