Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Physical activity promotion in physiotherapy practice: a systematic scoping review of a decade of literature
  1. Anna Lowe1,
  2. Melanie Gee2,
  3. Sionnadh McLean3,
  4. Chris Littlewood4,5,
  5. Carolyn Lindsay3,
  6. Simon Everett6
  1. 1 Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2 Centre for Health and Social Care Research, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
  3. 3 Health and Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK
  4. 4 School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  5. 5 Research Institute for Primary Care & Health Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK
  6. 6 Physiotherapy Department, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Anna Lowe, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield S10-2BP, UK; a.lowe{at}


Background The health benefits of physical activity (PA) have been extensively documented. Globally PA levels are low with only a small proportion of the population reaching recommended levels. Insufficient PA is seen as a major public health problem with high cost to society. Physiotherapists work with people to manage long-term conditions and are well placed to deliver individual interventions to increase PA. Despite this, little is known about the evidence that exists in this field.

Methods This scoping review comprises a comprehensive search of key databases using predetermined search terms. This is supplemented with a parallel search that incorporated novel social media strands. In line with current guidance, a robust screening process took place using agreed inclusion and exclusion criteria.

Results 31 studies met the inclusion criteria. The number of studies published annually increased over the decade. Ireland and USA yielded the largest number of publications with only 1 study from the UK. The target populations included physiotherapists and service users from a range of clinical populations. The studies were mainly quantitative and observational in design with a predominance of studies that scoped attitudes, perceptions, barriers and current practice.

Conclusions This reconnaissance has shown the state of the evidence to be sparse and disparate. However, the sharp rise in published work in recent years is encouraging. The predominance of scoping studies and the clear social, economic and political drivers for change in this area highlights a need for more pragmatic, interventional studies that can inform clinical practice.

  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Physiotherapy
  • Health promotion

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter Follow Anna Lowe @annalowephysio

  • Contributors AL, MG, SE and CL were involved in the process as described in the manuscript. SM and CL oversaw the entire research process and ensured ethical governance as doctoral supervisors. All authors contributed to the development of the manuscript for publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.