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Physical Activity: Community-Wide Campaigns


What the CPSTF Found

About The Systematic Review

The CPSTF finding is based on evidence from a systematic review of 10 studies (search period 1980 – 2000).

The review was conducted on behalf of the CPSTF by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity.

Summary of Results

Detailed results from the systematic review are available in the published evidence review pdf icon [PDF - 3.13 MB].

Ten studies were included in the review.

  • The percentage of people who reported being physically active increased by a median of 4.2 % (6 study arms)
  • Reported energy expenditure increased by a median of 16.3% (3 study arms)
  • All but 1 of 5 study arms that measured physical activity reported increases.
  • Community-wide campaigns increased knowledge about exercise and physical activity and self-reported intention to be more physically active
  • Studies that measured body weight changes showed mixed results. Some studies showed weight loss, but others showed no change or even slight weight gain.

Summary of Economic Evidence

An economic review of this intervention did not find any relevant studies.


The results of this review should be applicable to most communities in the United States if the campaign is adapted to specific needs and interests of the target population.

Evidence Gaps

The CPSTF identified several areas that have limited information. Additional research and evaluation could help answer the following questions and fill remaining gaps in the evidence base. (What are evidence gaps?)

  • What characteristics and components of community-wide campaigns are most effective?
  • How can community-wide efforts become permanent?
  • What are the most effective and efficient delivery settings and methods (e.g., media, work settings)?
  • Do coalitions enhance the delivery and effectiveness of interventions in community settings? If so, is the enhanced effect worth the potential added cost and burden of implementation?
  • How do interventions affect various population subgroups, such as age, gender, race, or ethnicity?
  • Does the level or scale affect whether interventions work?
  • After the initial behavior change, what are the most effective ways to maintain physical activity levels?
  • Do informational approaches to increasing physical activity help to increase health knowledge? Is it necessary to increase knowledge or improve attitudes toward physical activity to increase physical activity levels?
  • Do these interventions increase awareness of opportunities for, and benefits of, physical activity?
  • Are there any key harms?
  • Is anything known about whether or how approaches to physical activity could reduce potential harms (e.g., injuries or other problems associated with doing too much too fast)?
  • What time and money constraints slow or stop the implementation of these interventions?
  • Can reliable and valid measures be developed to address the entire spectrum of physical activity, including light or moderate activity?
  • Are these interventions cost effective?
  • How can effectiveness in terms of health outcomes or quality-adjusted health outcomes be better measured, estimated, or modeled?
  • How can the cost–benefit of these programs be estimated?
  • How do specific characteristics of these interventions contribute to economic efficiency?
  • What combinations of components in multicomponent interventions are most cost-effective?
  • What are the physical or environmental barriers to implementing these interventions?

Study Characteristics

  • In addition to sedentary behavior, most included studies also considered other cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as diet and smoking.
  • Communication techniques were a common element in all of the campaigns.
    • Campaign messages were directed to large and relatively undifferentiated audiences through diverse media, including television, radio, newspaper columns and inserts, direct mailings, billboards, advertisements in transit outlets, and trailers in movie theaters.
    • Messages were delivered as paid advertisements, donated public service announcements, press releases, the creation of feature items, or a combination of two or more of these approaches.
  • Multicomponent interventions were typically evaluated as a "combined package" because it was impossible to distinguish the relative contributions of each component. These interventions most often included some combination of the following.
    • Social support, such as self-help groups
    • Risk factor screening, counseling, and education about physical activity in a variety of settings, including worksites, schools, and community events
    • Environmental or policy changes such as the creation of walking trails
  • Many of the evaluated interventions lasted several years, though a few were limited to 6 weeks to 6 months.