Lil Convery 2009
Exercise referral programmes like the Green Prescription community programme are a popular and effective way of increasing the physical activity of primary care patients at risk of, or diagnosed with chronic disease. The perspectives of patients and their subjective experiences are important for refining behaviour change strategies employed in such interventions.
Aim of Research
This study aimed to explore how patients participating in the Green Prescription programme understand the concept of success in terms of their physical activity and health and how this understanding may change over time.
Qualitative longitudinal data was collected from fourteen patients attending the community programme by using two phases of semi-structured interviews conducted five months apart. The verbatim interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis and triangulated with routine information recorded on Green Prescription patient registration forms to generate themes.
When considering goals for the future, patients described success in terms of avoiding or managing disease states, clinical measures and/or body weight. In the second interviews, these factors were described as frustrating experiences and were rarely considered as achievements, even when progress had been made. The themes relating to embedding physical activity as a habit and improvement or maintenance of physical fitness and functional ability were described as experiences of success and achievement in the second interviews, even when they had not been specified as goals in the first interviews.
The conceptualisations of success that were more likely to lead to experiences of success may be of value for promoting physical activity in inactive primary care patients referred to programmes such as Green Prescription. These findings suggest that framing physical activity goals around functional ability and physical fitness in ways that encourage embedding an active lifestyle, can promote self-reinforcing experiences, whereas goals that focus on clinical measures and disease states are potentially detrimental to behaviour change attempts.