Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Randomised controlled trial of home-based walking programmes at and below current recommended levels of exercise in sedentary adults
  1. Mark A Tully1,
  2. Margaret E Cupples1,
  3. Nigel D Hart1,
  4. Jane McEneny2,
  5. Kieran J McGlade1,
  6. Wai-Sun Chan3,
  7. Ian S Young4
  1. 1Division of Public Health Medicine and Primary Care, Queen’s University Belfast
  2. 2Centre for Clinical and Population Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast
  3. 3Department of Family Medicine and General Practice, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  4. 4Centre for Clinical and Population Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Mark A Tully
 Division of Public Health Medicine and Primary Care, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT9 7HR; m.tully{at}


Objectives: To determine, using unsupervised walking programmes, the effects of exercise at a level lower than currently recommended to improve cardiovascular risk factors and functional capacity.

Design: 12 week randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Northern Ireland Civil Service; home-based walking.

Participants: 106 healthy, sedentary 40 to 61 year old adults of both sexes.

Interventions: Participants were randomly allocated to a walking programme (30 minutes brisk walking three days a week (n = 44) or five days a week (n = 42)) or a control group (n = 20). Participants could choose to walk in bouts of at least 10 minutes. They used pedometers to record numbers of steps taken. Intention to treat analysis of changes within groups was done using paired t tests; extent of change (baseline to 12 week measurements) was compared between groups using analysis of variance and Gabriel’s post hoc test.

Main outcome measures: Blood pressure, serum lipids, body mass index, waist:hip ratio, and functional capacity (using a 10 m shuttle walk test).

Main results: 89% (93/106) completed the study. Systolic blood pressure and waist and hip circumferences fell significantly both in the three day group (5 mm Hg, 2.6 cm, and 2.4 cm, respectively) and in the five day group (6 mm Hg, 2.5 cm, and 2.2 cm) (p<0.05). Functional capacity increased in both groups (15%; 11%). Diastolic blood pressure fell in the five day group (3.4 mm Hg, p<0.05). No changes occurred in the control group.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence of benefit from exercising at a level below that currently recommended in healthy sedentary adults. Further studies are needed of potential longer term health benefits for a wider community from low levels of exercise.

  • NICE, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
  • SWT, shuttle walk test
  • walking
  • health promotion
  • exercise
  • randomised controlled trial
  • coronary artery disease

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.


  • Funding: The researcher (MT) was supported by funding from the Department of Education and Learning NI.

    Ethical approval: The study was approved by the Queen’s University of Belfast research ethics committee, approval number 32/03 (23 Jan 2003). Recruitment was completed in July 2003 and field work in October 2003.

    Competing interests: None.

Linked Articles

  • In this issue
    Carlos Alvarez-Dardet John R Ashton