Stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity: a Community Guide updated review

Am J Prev Med. 2012 Nov;43(5):551-61. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.07.035.


Context: The goal of the systematic review described in this summary was to determine the effectiveness of stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity at the population level. This systematic review is an update of a Community Guide systematic review and Community Preventive Services Task Force recommendation completed in 2001.

Evidence acquisition: Updated searches for literature published from 1980 to 2008 were conducted in 11 databases. Of 267 articles resulting from the literature search, 16 were selected for full abstraction, including the three studies from the original 2001 review. Standard Community Guide methods were used to conduct the systematic evidence review.

Evidence synthesis: Physical activity outcomes were assessed using a variety of self-report measures with duration intervals ranging from 6 weeks to 4 years. Ten studies using comparable outcome measures documented a median absolute increase of 3.4 percentage points (interquartile interval: 2.4 to 4.2 percentage points), and a median relative increase of 6.7% (interquartile interval: 3.0% to 14.1%), in self-reported physical activity levels. The remaining six studies used alternative outcome measures: three evaluated changes in self-reported time spent in physical activity (median relative change, 4.4%; range of values, 3.1%-18.2%); two studies used a single outcome measure and found that participants reported being more active after the campaign than before it; and one study found that a mass media weight-loss program led to a self-reported increase in physical activity.

Conclusions: The findings of this updated systematic review show that intervention effects, based wholly on self-reported measures, were modest and inconsistent. These findings did not lead the Task Force to change its earlier conclusion of insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity. This paper also discusses areas needing future research to strengthen the evidence base. Finally, studies published between 2009 and 2011, after the Task Force finding was reached, and briefly summarized here, are shown to support that finding.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mass Media*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Public Health
  • Self Report
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss