Background: This study aimed to examine the experiences of walking promotion professionals on the range and effectiveness of recruitment strategies used within community based walking programmes within the United Kingdom. Methods: Two researchers recruited and conducted semi-structured interviews with managers and project co-ordinators of community based walking programmes, across the UK, using a purposive sampling frame. Three case studies were also conducted with programmes aiming to recruit priority groups and also demonstrated innovative recruitment methods. Data analysis adopted an approach using analytic induction. Results: Twenty eight interviews were conducted, with community projects targeting participants by age, physical activity status, socio-demographic characteristics (i.e. ethnic group) or by health status. Two types of programmes were identified: those with explicit health aims and those without. Programme aims which require targeting of specific groups adopt more specific recruitment methods. The selection of recruitment method was dependent on the respondent’s awareness of ‘what works’ and the resource capacity at their disposal. Word of mouth was reported to be the most effective means of recruitment but using this approach took time and effort to build relationships with target groups, usually through a third party. Effectiveness of recruitment was assessed by number of participants rather than numbers of the right participants. New social
communication media was used to recruit participants to a walking group as a social rather than health related activity. Conclusions: Effective walking programme recruitment seems to require trained, strategic, labour intensive, word-of-mouth communication, often in partnerships, in order to understand needs and develop trust and motivation within disengaged sedentary communities. Walking promotion professional require better training and resources to deliver appropriate recruitment strategies to reach priority groups.
Anne Matthews Anne has worked with the BHFHPRG since 2001. She supports physical activity research within the Group. She is developing research into the provenance of the student diet to support the nutrition research programme. Graham Brennan Graham is a Ph.D candidate working within the School of Psychological Sciences and Health, University of Strathclyde. Paul Kelly Paul has worked with the BHFHPRG since 2008. He is working on an analysis of different approaches to promoting physical activity and sport in children and adolescents around Europe. Chloe McAdam Chloe is the research coordinator for the Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (SPARColl), University of Strathclyde. Nanette Mutrie Nanette leads the Physical Activity for Health Research Group, University of Strathclyde. The group is a centre of excellence for research relating to physical activity for health with particular regard to the use of technology. Charlie Foster Charlie is a University...