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Community-based social support for physical activity

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Community Members Employers & Businesses Healthcare Professionals & Advocates Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 50-99% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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Community-based social support interventions for physical activity focus on changing physical activity behavior through building, strengthening, and maintaining social networks that provide supportive relationships for behavior change (e.g., setting up a buddy system or a walking group to provide friendship and support).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased physical activity
Improved physical fitness

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that community-based social support interventions for physical activity increase physical activity and physical fitness among adults (CG-Physical activity, Kouvonen 2011). Middle-aged women enrolled in a weight loss program, for example, have been shown to be more likely to lose weight if they experience social support from friends and family (Kiernan 2012). Community-based social support interventions for physical activity are considered cost effective (Roux 2008).

Available evidence suggests that these programs may not have positive effects on physical activity and physical fitness among adolescents (van Sluijs 2011). However, adolescents with low levels of perceived social support from family and friends appear more likely to engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors than peers with higher levels of social support (Vander Wal 2012). Additional evidence is needed to determine effects on adolescents.


United States

Community-based social support interventions for physical activity are implemented throughout the country. Examples include CHAMPS and Wheeling Walks.

Implementation Resources

PFP-Social support 2008 - Partnership for Prevention (PFP). Social support for physical activity: Establishing a community-based walking group program to increase physical activity among youth and adults - An action guide. Washington, DC: Partnership for Prevention (PFP); 2008. Accessed on February 25, 2018

Citations - Evidence

CG-Physical activity - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Physical activity. Accessed on March 6, 2018
Kiernan 2012 - Kiernan M, Moore SD, Schoffman DE, et al. Social support for healthy behaviors: Scale psychometrics and prediction of weight loss among women in a behavioral program. Obesity. 2012;20(4):756–64 Accessed on February 25, 2018
Kouvonen 2011 - Kouvonen A, De Vogli R, Stafford M, et al. Social support and the likelihood of maintaining and improving levels of physical activity: The Whitehall II study. European Journal of Public Health. 2012;22(4):514–8. Accessed on February 25, 2018
Roux 2008* - Roux L, Pratt M, Tengs TO, et al. Cost effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(6):578-88. Accessed on February 25, 2018
van Sluijs 2011* - van Sluijs EMF, Kriemler S, McMinn AM. The effect of community and family interventions on young people’s physical activity levels: A review of reviews and updated systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2011;45(11):914-22. Accessed on February 25, 2018
Vander Wal 2012* - Vander Wal JS. The relationship between body mass index and unhealthy weight control behaviors among adolescents: The role of family and peer social support. Economics & Human Biology. 2012;10(4):395–404. Accessed on February 25, 2018

Citations - Implementation

CHAMPS - Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS). Accessed on February 25, 2018
Wheeling Walks - Wheeling Walks. Isn't time you started walking? Accessed on May 24, 2016

Page Last Updated

January 10, 2014

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