Physical activity referral schemes (PARS) involve the referral of patients by health professionals (usually their GP) to a leisure provider so that they can undertake a programme of physical activity under the supervision of a qualified exercise professional. PARS have proliferated rapidly in the UK since their conception in the early nineties and are thought to be the most prevalent type of community-based physical activity programme. At the same time there has been an increasing interest in the role of physical activity in the prevention and treatment of mental-health problems and in the use of physical activity as a non-pharmacological treatment alternative. A study of 2,901 people participating in a PARS scheme between 2000 and 2003 compared the rates of referral, uptake and completion of people suffering from physical and mental illness. A similar percentage of people met up with a PARS coordinator (94% of people with a physical illness compared to 90% of people with a mental illness) but fewer people with mental-health problems (60% vs 69%) got as far as attending their first exercise sessions and fewer (22% vs 34%) completed their exercise programme.
Crone, Diane ... [et al] - Uptake and participation in physical activity referral schemes in the UK: an investigation of patients referred with mental-health problems Issues in Mental Health Nursing 2008, 29(10), 1088-1097