Attrition and adherence rates of sustained vs. intermittent exercise interventions

Ann Behav Med. 2011 Oct;42(2):197-209. doi: 10.1007/s12160-011-9279-8.


Background: No conclusions have been drawn regarding the relative attrition and adherence rates associated with sustained vs. intermittent exercise programs.

Purpose: The study aims to systematically examine randomized controlled exercise intervention trials that report attrition and/or adherence rates to sustained vs. intermittent aerobic exercise programs.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted, and references from qualifying articles were searched for additional papers.

Results: Fourteen articles met inclusion criteria, capturing 783 (76% female) enrolled and 599 (74% female) retained participants (mean age = 42.3 ± 6.6 years). Study durations ranged from 8 weeks to 18 months (mean duration = 22.7 ± 21.9 weeks). Although results varied, no consistent differences in attrition or adherence rates between sustained and intermittent exercise protocols were revealed.

Conclusions: Given the universally low rate of regular exercise participation and the ongoing problem of adherence to exercise protocols, the field may benefit from randomized controlled trials examining sustained vs. intermittent exercise programs in greater depth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Time Factors