Update on exercise referrals research

by Stuart Stokes on August 2, 2017

In 2016, the ukactive Research Institute launched a new project to establish the extent to which exercise referrals schemes (ERS) can change behaviour and increase physical activity (Together, Autumn 16).

The project, a first for the industry, is a partnership between ukactive and exercise referral software and public health specialist, ReferAll.  The goal is to create a pool of solid evidence from ERS across the UK that can be used to facilitate a nationwide rollout.

PhD student, Nikita Price, is undertaking the three-year research initiative. We caught up with her to find out more:


Why do you think ERS are so important?

Having worked in exercise referral I have seen, first hand, the benefits both psychologically and physically.  The literature suggests it works but we need more evidence.  Understandably, because of this lack of evidence, the medical profession underrates exercise referral. This may in turn reduce the likelihood of GP referrals. 


Where did you start with such an immense project?

Background reading followed by a literature review is essential.  This indicates clearly what is missing and therefore the scope of the work required.  I am currently undertaking a meta analysis on existing research of ERS.  From this I hope to see what schemes are working and for what types of patients.  For example a patient undergoing cardiac rehab: what exercise has been scheduled, with what frequency and whether it is improving their health.

I have also been reviewing the operators’ data on the ReferAll database.  This includes the date the referral was made, the type of exercise they are referred to, length of scheme and biometrics.  Alongside this I am looking for flaws in data entry and the data itself.  The entire project is based on ReferAll’s database. I hope my work will highlight the important research and development they have done to create this platform and that we can use it to promote the success of ERS throughout the UK.


What are your aims for the research?

I am hugely enthusiastic about this research.  I have always questioned how ERS could and should be changed and now I have a chance to make a real impact by working with ukactive and ReferAll.  Specifically, I would like to see whether it is possible to define what type of exercise is needed for any particular condition and its duration to create a successful outcome.  If we can highlight proven success via data and analysis then hopefully we can increase adherence and even influence NICE guidelines.  Ultimately it is about engaging more patients in exercise referral schemes to give them a better quality of life.


If you are an operator running an exercise referral scheme and would like to participate in the research, register your interest at https://secure.refer-all.net/uka


Nikita Price is a first-year PhD student at Coventry University. Her interest in exercise referral has continued from work experience and volunteering at secondary school to employment and education as a Personal Trainer, Exercise Referral Instructor and in Cardiac Rehabilitation during a BSc in Sport Psychology.  Her passion for research into ERS was brought to fruition during her dissertation for an MSc in Health Psychology. Alongside the PhD, she is currently working as a Research Assistant at Solihull Council.

 If you would like to know more about running an effective exercise referral scheme please download our complimentary guide on effective referral schemes by clicking the image below. Or contact us via our website.

Running an effective referral scheme

Topics: Referral Schemes