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Behavioral and Social Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Individually-Adapted Health Behavior Change Programs

Individually-adapted health behavior change programs to increase physical activity teach behavioral skills to help participants incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. The programs are tailored to each individual’s specific interests, preferences, and readiness for change.

These programs teach behavioral skills such as:

  • Goal-setting and self-monitoring of progress toward those goals
  • Building social support for new behaviors
  • Behavioral reinforcement through self-reward and positive self-talk
  • Structured problem solving to maintain the behavior change
  • Prevention of relapse into sedentary behavior

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends implementing individually-adapted health behavior change programs based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in increasing physical activity and improving physical fitness among adults and children.

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

Eighteen studies qualified for review.

  • In all 18 studies reviewed, individually-adapted health behavior change programs were effective in increasing physical activity as measured by various indicators.
    • Time spent in physical activity: median net increase of 35.4% (interquartile interval: 16.7% to 83.3%; 20 study arms)
    • Aerobic capacity (VO2 max): median increase of 6.3% (interquartile interval: 5.1% to 9.8%; 13 study arms)
    • Energy expenditure: median increase of 64.3% (interquartile interval: 31.2% to 85.5%; 15 study arms)
  • Other measures of physical activity, such as the percentage of people starting exercise programs and the frequency of physical activity, also increased as a result of these programs.
  • These interventions were effective among both men and women and in a variety of settings, including communities, worksites, and schools.
  • If appropriately adapted to the target populations, these interventions should be applicable to diverse settings and groups.

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity.

image of planetFind a Research-tested Intervention Program (RTIP) External Web Site Icon about the use of individually-adapted health behavior change programs to increase physical activity (What is an RTIP?).

Supporting Materials


Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Brownson R, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 3.14 MB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22(4S):73-107.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 70 kB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22 (4S):67-72.

CDC. Increasing physical activity. A report on recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. MMWR 2001;50 (RR-18):1-16. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Physical activity. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 302 kB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:80-113.

Read other Community Guide publications about Increasing Physical Activity in our library.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Behavioral and social approaches to increase physical activity: individually-adapted health behavior change programs. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: February 2001