...walk a mile

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Project ACTIVE was a study conducted at The Cooper Institute over a 24-month period between January 1994 and January 1996 and included 235 sedentary, healthy adults.


This study measured the efficiency of two different types of intervention programs designed to increase physical activity and cardiorespiratory health among participants in two study groups. A lifestyle physical activity intervention was prescribed for the first group, and a gymnasium-based physical activity intervention was prescribed for the second group. In the lifestyle intervention group, participants received motivational support and were taught how to incorporate more physical activity into their daily schedules during weekly small group meetings. These participants also received a quarterly newsletter and monthly calendar of activities and were encouraged to monitor their physical activities. Participants in the gymnasium-based intervention group received an exercise program to follow, quarterly newsletter, monthly calendar of activities, and they exercised at a fitness facility. These participants recorded their physical activities using a computer program.


Over the course of 24 months, we found significant and relatively similar improvements in physical activity and cardiorespiratory health in both the lifestyle and gym-based groups. However, the average cost per participant per month for the lifestyle group is significantly less at $17.15 per month compared to $49.31 for the gym-based group. Further detail of cost is exhibited below in Table 1.


Table 1. Cost for Lifestyle and Gym-Based Physical Activity Intervention Groups


Category Lifestyle Group Gym-Based Group
Staff Time $29,717.05 $41,705.18
Computer Software  – $1,704.15
Instruction Materials $4,605.26 $1,260.84
Printing and Postage $5,008.68  –
Facilities $10,474.38
Health Club Memberships  – $90,240.50
TOTAL COST: $49,805.37 $134,910.67
Average Cost Per Participant/Month: $17.15 $49.31


This study suggests that a lifestyle intervention approach where participants receive motivational support and are taught how to include more physical activity into their daily routines is more cost-effective than a gym-based exercise program in improving physical activity and cardiorespiratory health.


Dunn AL, Marcus BH, Kampert JB, Garcia ME, Kohl HW, Blair SN. Comparison of Lifestyle and Structured Interventions to Increase Physical Activity and Cardiorespiratory Fitness. JAMA. January 27, 1999. Vol. 28.
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