Sports Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 355–375 | Cite as

Characteristics of Physical Activity Guidelines and their Effect on Adherence

A Review of Randomized Trials
  • Ryan E. RhodesEmail author
  • Darren E. R. Warburton
  • Holly Murray
Review Article


Prescription characteristics and guidelines of recommended physical activity have been suggested as factors that may affect behavioural adherence; however, no review has critically appraised the current evidence. Thus, the purpose of this article was to review the effect of frequency, intensity, duration and mode on physical activity adherence and provide meta-analytical summaries of the findings. A total of 27 peer-reviewed studies met inclusion criteria and random-effects meta-analytical procedures, correcting for sampling bias, were employed where possible. Overall, results showed that the effect of physical activity guideline characteristics on behavioural adherence is not particularly robust as evidenced by a lack of unified findings and almost no evidence for the interaction among these factors (e.g. volume of activity and energy expenditure). Frequency (d = 0.08), intensity (d = 0.02), duration (d = 0.05) and mode of activity (ds = 0.03–0.10) showed generally null/trivial effects. Factors unrelated to the recommended guidelines may be of greater importance when considering behavioural adherence issues. Social cognitive, personality, and environmental or socioeconomic factors have amassed considerable evidence as correlates or determinants of physical activity, and health promoters may wish to consider these variables before basic physical activity characteristics.


Physical Activity Physical Activity Guideline Ventilatory Threshold Physical Activity Recommendation Programme Adherence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Ryan E. Rhodes and Darren E.R. Warburton are supported by Scholar awards from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and New Investigator awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr Rhodes is also supported by funds from the Canadian Diabetes Association, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Human Early Learning Partnership (British Columbia Ministry of Family). The authors report no conflict of interest for this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan E. Rhodes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Darren E. R. Warburton
    • 2
  • Holly Murray
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioural Medicine Laboratory, Faculty of EducationUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Cardiovascular Physiology and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Experimental Medicine ProgramUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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