One of the most popular approaches to promoting physical activity in the primary care setting has been through exercise referral schemes.

These schemes are widespread in the UK and form an important part of the interface between healthcare practitioners, health promotion specialists and exercise professionals.

Aim of the toolkit

This exercise referral toolkit aims to provide an easy-to-read, practical guide for professionals involved in exercise referral schemes. It has been developed in consultation with a range of professionals and key national stakeholders.

The toolkit is not designed as a ‘blueprint’ for how exercise referral schemes must be designed, implemented and evaluated; it offers some best practice principles for all those involved in delivery, management and commissioning. It is for individual schemes to consider whether the implementation of these principles will improve the design, delivery and effectiveness of their scheme, given the capacity and resources available.

It draws upon Government policy for the design and delivery of quality assured exercise referral schemes; it is not a replacement for such national policy. Furthermore it should not be used in isolation from the National Quality Assurance Framework for exercise referral schemes (NQAF). It uses the evidence base and local scheme practice to support schemes in meeting the guidelines set out within the National Quality Assurance Framework and to raise standards within schemes.

The toolkit is divided into several easy-to-use sections:

Section 1: Background technical report

Section 2: A snapshot of exercise referral schemes operating in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Section 3: A synopsis of exercise referral research

Section 4: A quick reference guide to exercise referral schemes for referring healthcare professionals

Section 5: Guidance for exercise professionals working with referred patients

Section 6: Guidance for exercise referral scheme coordinators

Section 7: A guide to commissioning exercise referral schemes

Section 8: A guide to evaluating exercise referral schemes

Section 9: A qualifications and training guide

Find out more about Exercise Referral Schemes on the NICE website.