‘Ease in’ counselling key to exercise intervention: study
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‘Ease in’ counselling key to exercise intervention: study

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Beginning an exercise intervention programme with motivational interviewing to ease inactive clients into the idea of regular physical activity could be key to the success of such schemes.

That’s according to a new study from the ukactive Research Institute – recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The research found that physical activity counselling (motivational interviewing) is just as effective as a structured exercise programme for improving the health of low-fit individuals, prompting calls for behaviour change to become a more prominent part of exercise interventions.

Although exercise referrals have so far enjoyed only limited success, exercise professionals are eager to play a more active role in helping to lighten the load on the NHS by providing preventative treatments. Public health delivery is becoming an increasingly important focus for the physical activity sector, with the chance to become a frontline public health delivery partner having previously been identified as an £8bn opportunity for the industry.

The latest ukactive study – which looked at 1,146 low-fitness individuals between 2012 and 2014 – showed that 12 physical activity counselling sessions delivered once per month were as effective as both structured and unstructured gym-based exercise in improving aerobic capacity over 48 weeks.

“I think these findings are very significant for activity providers who are becoming increasingly judged on their ability to engage with inactive populations,” the study’s lead author Dr Steven Mann told Health Club Management.

“Essentially the motivational interviewing model is about easing participants – who might not have exercised for a number of years – into the idea of being more active, rather than going straight into a structured programme which might be off-putting to some people.

“Exercise on referral programmes have the potential to be a crucial part of the prevention agenda, so this research is another step in understanding what the best approach will be.”

Dr Mann, who is ukactive’s research director said the sector should “fully explore” including behavioural counselling and motivational interviewing techniques into existing staff training structures. He added that physical activity providers should adapt existing programmes that target inactive populations to ensure motivational interviewing is included.

To view the full study, click here.

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Beginning an exercise intervention programme with motivational interviewing to ease inactive clients into the idea of regular physical activity could be key to the success of such schemes.
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