Pringle, A., Gilson, N., McKenna, J., and Cooke, C.  (2009) ‘An evaluation of the Local Exercise Action Pilots and impact on moderate physical activity’, in Health Education Journal, 68 (3): 179 – 185.

[Another sports science piece with the usual amazing definitions, heavy statistics, special pleading, and lots of talking up at the end].

Data was gathered on no less than 10,433 people from ten sites, 2004-06.  However, only 1022 actually completed from baseline to the end of the project.  Those completers did show increased overall activity levels, with pleasing results for the sedentary and lightly active.  Methods used include questionnaires and self report devices. Measures of activity were MPA MET – minutes/week [We were told that MPA stood for moderate physical activity, but I had to look up MET – minutes/week.  Apparently it is a metabolic unit which assumes that the baseline is metabolic activity at rest: as exercise increases, so does metabolic activity, so that exercise of 20 minutes per week involving activity, not at rest, gives an MET score of 20. See the IPAQ scoring protocol below for more details]

Participation in MPA for 30 minutes, five times a week can prevent chronic health conditions.  However, worldwide participation rates are low, and in the UK ‘70% of adults, 30% of boys and 40% of girls were found to be insufficiently active’ (180).  Targets aim to increase the rate of activity, and there have been national interventions, including LEAP, ‘a £2.6 million government funded physical activity intervention’ (180).

Ten sites across England participated between 2004 and 2006.  Inactive individuals were targeted, defined as doing less than 30 minutes of MPA at least five times a week for adults, and 60 for young people [so the usual problems with drawing  the boundary here].  Participants were recruited 'through media, outreach work, local practitioners in health, education and community services' (180).  Interventions offered 'exercise referral, classes and groups, peer mentoring, motivational interviewing, campaigns, outdoor activity and training physical activity leaders' (180).

Nine sites took part in evaluation. Data collected included demographic stuff on age, gender, ethnicity and socio economic status.  MPA was assessed before, during and after the intervention, using 'validated, seven day self reports' .  Children and young people also completed 'two interview administered/diary based questionnaires', while adults did the self administered International Physical Activity Questionnaire (181).  Evaluators collected and screened data.  Descriptive statistics were produced for demographic characteristics.  MPA MET- minutes/week were calculated pre intervention and during intervention, and intervention effects calculated, and differences were tested for significance.

Only 5324 participants provided suitable data, and only 1022 completed.  The characteristics of completers were compared using demographic characteristics, and they had turned out to be 'principally older people [61%] and white British [87.5%], in managerial/professional occupations [63.1%]' (181).  Comparisons did show 'a significant, positive intervention effect, shown by changes in the average score of MET - minutes/week’ (181).

Among the completers, 80% reported that they have maintained their levels of MPA at follow-up.  59% of completers who were sedentary or only lightly active achieved recommended guidelines at intervention.  The effect was particularly noticeable with sedentary completers—'80.9% of these became lightly, moderately or highly active at intervention' (182).

Overall, national interventions seemed to be effective, especially for those who were sedentary or lightly active.  These groups will benefit most from investment in programmes like this even if they do not attain national guidelines.  Adherence to MPA over the long term is also promising [but how long a term did ensue between the end of the intervention and a follow-up? Can we assume it was between 2004 and 2006 for everyone?] Although this was an unusually large sample and the national study, there were difficulties in collecting data.  The data also show a wide variability in change in MPA, 'indicating that the interventions elicited increases for some, yet failed to encourage increases in others' (183).  The authors suspects that local variations were responsible. Future research needs to do something to capture more data, but nevertheless, the value of LEAP in making a contribution to meeting targets seems clear [talk up here than as usual].

The actual instruments used, such as self report measures are not detailed, but there are references to them.  One is on line and easily accessible—the IPAQ instrument

The questions are like this ( I have slightly modified the actual layout)

In answering the following questions,

¨  vigorous physical activities refer to activities that take hard physical effort and make you breathe much harder that normal.

¨  moderate activities refer to activities that take moderate physical effort and make you breathe somewhat harder that normal


1a. During the last 7 days, on how many days did you do vigorous physical activities like heavy lifting, digging, aerobics, or fast bicycling,?

Think about only those physical activities that you did for at least 10 minutes at a time.

________ days per week
1b. How much time in total did you usually spend on one of those days doing vigorous physical activities?

_____ hours ______ minutes

or none

2a. Again, think only about those physical activities that you did for at least 10 minutes at a time. During the last 7 days, on how many days did you do moderate physical activities like carrying light loads, bicycling at a regular pace, or doubles tennis? Do not include walking.

________ days per week
2b. How much time in total did you usually spend on one of those days doing moderate physical activities?

_____ hours ______ minutes

 or  none

3a. During the last 7 days, on how many days did you walk for at least 10 minutes at a time? This includes walking at work and at home, walking to travel from place to place, and any other walking that you did solely for recreation, sport, exercise or leisure.

________ days per week
3b. How much time in total did you usually spend walking on one of those days?

_____ hours ______ minutes

or none

The last question is about the time you spent sitting on weekdays while at work, at home, while doing course work and during leisure time. This includes time spent sitting at a desk, visiting friends, reading traveling on a bus or sitting or lying down to watch television.


4. During the last 7 days, how much time in total did you usually spend sitting on a week day?

____ hours ______ minutes


This is the end of questionnaire, thank you for participating.


IPAQ stands for International Physical Activity Questionnaire. It is available in several languages.  This is the short version in English . There are some obvious problems of definition (like ‘somewhat’),and the examples are a bit odd – heavy digging? Playing doubles tennis? It also assumes quite a detailed memory. The longer one [], for adults asks more questions about job-related activities, transport, leisure – and housework (at last).

Check out the scoring protocol on for a justification for things like setting boundaries at some many steps or METs