Leading a Group Physical Activity Intervention

Post date: 23-Aug-2013 08:52:44

After working in group exercise referral programmes for many years, it was only recently that I recognised that experienced exercise professionals are required to manage some groups without undergoing any formal training in aspects of this work. Exercise professionals that have completed a L3 Exercise referral course will have covered content on theories of behaviour change and basic counselling skills that has been shown to improve the rates of adherence and long term sustainability of physical activity interventions. Instructors that are planning on working with specific sub-groups of clinical patients are advised to complete a L4 qualification that covers specific content related to topics such as Low Back Pain or Cancer and once again these courses are required to cover theories of behaviour change. Many instructors will go on to work on interventions where people with similar conditions are participating together in a group environment.. Many professionals have experience of instructing groups in exercise but this should not be confused with facilitating a group session that includes educational and behavioural modification requirements and for some reason, as an professional body, we seem to think that if people have experience of individual counselling and support or group exercise class instruction they will be able to run a group intervention with no further training. The approach taken when facilitating such a group can have profound effects on the retention and adherence levels, the quality of learning that takes place and overall experience of the participants. This experience could have lasting effects on the likelihood that participants will visit that particular facility again or more importantly prolong their future commitment to physical activity in general.

The job of a group facilitator, or leader, should be to promote interactions and cohesiveness between the participants, encourage or limit sub-grouping, educate and encourage sharing of knowledge, summarise discussions and potentially resolve conflict. All of this needs to be undertaken with the right balance of leadership and facilitation in order to promote the most appropriate group environment that will encourage sustainable physical activity patterns for years to come.

In a future blog article I will be addressing some of these issues in greater depth and point readers to some of the research in this area, but for now if you have any thoughts on this issue then please add a comment below, email me at bjane@marjon.ac.uk or tweet me @benjanefitness.