The cost-effectiveness of physical activity interventions: A systematic review of reviews

Karim Abu-Omar, Alfred Rütten, Ionuţ Burlacu, Valentin Schätzlein, Sven Messing, Marc Suhrcke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Despite growing recognition of the need to promote physical activity, the existing evidence base on the cost-effectiveness of relevant interventions appears scant and scattered. This systematic review of reviews set out to take stock of the evidence on the cost-effectiveness of physical activity interventions.

METHODS: Ten literature databases were systematically searched for available reviews on the cost-effectiveness of physical activity interventions, complemented by a hand search. Out of the 515 articles identified, 18 reviews met the inclusion criteria. A quality appraisal of the 18 reviews was undertaken.

RESULTS: Of the 18 reviews, 4 contained information on the target group of children and adolescents, 12 on adults, 3 on older adults, and 6 on the general population. Across the reviews some intervention strategies were identified as being particularly cost-effective, including certain school-based interventions (children and adolescents), interventions using pedometers (adults), fall prevention programs (older people), mass media campaigns and environmental approaches (general population). However, for some of these approaches (e.g. mass media campaigns), the underlying evidence of being able to change physical activity behavior remains inconsistent.

CONCLUSION: Available evidence for the cost-effectiveness of physical activity interventions is scattered, but points towards the cost-effectiveness of certain interventions. Until this moment, cost-effectiveness has more often been studied for individual-level interventions. This is potentially due to some methodological challenges in assessing the cost-effectiveness of population-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-78
Number of pages7
JournalPrev Med.
Early online date15 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

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© 2017 The Authors.

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