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Campaigns and Informational Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Stand-Alone Mass Media Campaigns

Stand-alone mass media campaigns are interventions that rely on mass media channels to deliver messages about physical activity to large and relatively undifferentiated audiences. These campaigns are designed to:

  • Increase awareness and/or knowledge of the benefits of physical activity
  • Influence attitudes and beliefs about physical activity
  • Change physical activity behaviors within defined populations

Messages are transmitted using channels such as newspapers, brochures, manuals, radio, television, billboards, and websites either singly or in combination.

Stand-alone mass media campaigns are distinct from mass media employed as part of broader multicomponent interventions (e.g., broader community-wide campaigns) that also may incorporate individually oriented health behavior change programs and activities, social support networks, and environmental and/or policy changes.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force concludes there is insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity at the population level.

Sixteen eligible studies that evaluated stand-alone mass media campaigns of varied intensity and duration (i.e., 1 week to 5 years), targeting varied populations, using diverse control and comparison conditions and diverse physical activity outcome measures, found modest and inconsistent effects.

Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement

Results from the Systematic Review

The Task Force finding is based on evidence from a Community Guide systematic review published in 2002 (3 studies, search period 1980-2000) combined with more recent evidence (13 studies, search period 2000-2009). It updates the previous review on Mass Media Campaigns.

Sixteen studies qualified for the review. Study duration ranged from 1 week to 4 years.

  • Proportion of people who reported being physically active (as defined within each study):
    • Median absolute increase of 3.4 percentage points (Interquartile interval [IQI]: -0.6 to 5.7 percentage points; 10 studies)
    • Median relative increase of 6.7% (IQI: -1.6% to 14.1%; 10 studies)
  • In three studies, people reported spending more time engaging in physical activity: median relative increase of 4.4% (range of 3.1% to 18.2%).
  • Three additional studies found people reported being more active as a result of a campaign, though increases were modest.

The review findings are 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 mass media campaigns to increase physical activity (What is an RTIP?).

Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the Task Force did not have enough information to determine if the intervention works.

Supporting Materials


Brown DR, Soares J, Epping JM, Lankford TJ, Wallace JS, Hopkins D, Ramsey Buchanan L, Orleans CT, Community Preventive Services Task Force. Stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity. A Community Guide updated review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 211 kB] Am J Prev Med 2012;43(5):551–61.

Community Preventive Services Task Force. Stand-alone mass media campaigns to increase physical activity. Updated findings from the Community Preventive Services Task Force. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 60 kB] Am J Prev Med 2012;43(5):562–4.

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

*PDF includes all of the information available and will not be updated.


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. Campaigns and informational approaches to increase physical activity: stand-alone mass media campaigns. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: March 2010