Community-based efforts to promote physical activity: a systematic review of interventions considering mode of delivery, study quality and population subgroups

J Sci Med Sport. 2014 May;17(3):276-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2013.04.009. Epub 2013 May 19.


Objectives: Despite the known benefits of physical activity, the majority of adults in developed countries lead sedentary lifestyles. The community setting is a promising venue for physical activity-promoting interventions. Our objectives were to investigate the effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions by mode of delivery, study quality and to analyse intervention effectiveness in different subgroups in the population.

Design: We conducted a systematic literature review in Medline and other databases to identify controlled, community-based physical activity interventions published between 2001 and 2012.

Methods: We performed several post hoc subgroup comparisons for mode of delivery, study quality and selected population characteristics, using net per cent change in physical activity outcomes between baseline and follow-up as an effect measure.

Results: We identified 55 studies on exercise/walking sessions, face-to-face counselling, public campaigns and interventions by mail, the Internet and telephone presenting data on 20,532 participants. Overall, half of the studies reported positive physical activity outcomes (total net per cent change: 16.4%; p=0.159; net per cent change for high-quality studies, i.e. studies meeting more than 5 out of 7 quality criteria: 16.2%; p=0.010). Interventions using face-to-face counselling or group sessions were most effective (net per cent change: 35.0%; p=0.014). Net per cent change was also higher in studies exclusively tailored to women (27.7%; p=0.005) or specific ethnic groups (38.9%; p=0.034).

Conclusions: This systematic review supports the effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions in high-quality studies. Our results suggest that interventions using personal contact as well as tailored interventions are most promising.

Keywords: Adults; Community intervention; Physical activity; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Community Participation / methods*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Research Design
  • Residence Characteristics