A pilot programme promoting fitness and exercise was launched through the local media in the Bournemouth area. The aim was to study the feasibility and effectiveness of a fitness testing programme as a trigger to increase exercise participation. Three hundred and eighty adult volunteers (male and female, all ages) undertook a sub-maximal fitness test and were given advice on exercise and diet by trained counsellors. Two hundred and eighty-five (75%) completed a second, follow-up fitness test, four months later. The results were very encouraging. Almost all of those classified as being unfit at the first test had exercised more frequently and made great improvements in physical fitness by the second test (p less than 0.01). Similarly, most of those who were overweight made substantial weight reductions during the course of the campaign (p less than 0.01). The majority of the group also made important changes in their diet. There appears to be sufficient interest in the general population to recruit people of all ages and fitness levels to join in fitness promotion programmes, but drop-out rates may be appreciative. On the basis of these findings it is proposed that fitness testing is an acceptable and helpful trigger to increased physical activity for both males and females of all ages. Such an increase in exercise appears to result in important improvements in fitness and, in combination with dietary modification, favourable reductions in weight. Further work should now be conducted in the form of controlled trials to compare the costs and effectiveness of fitness testing programmes with other methods of raising exercise levels in the community.
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