Approximately 85 % of Canadians are not physically active enough to achieve health benefits. Peer-led self-management programs are becoming an increasingly popular strategy for modifying health behaviors, including physical activity. The purpose of this study was to systematically review and meta-analyze the effect of peer-led self-management interventions on physical activity. PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews databases were systematically searched to identify all relevant randomized controlled trials that evaluated the effect of peer-led self-management on physical activity. The studies were described and effect size data were included in meta-analyses. Subgroup analyses were performed according to type of physical activity outcome (i.e., duration, frequency, other).
Twenty-one studies were included in the review and 14 reported statistically significant improvements in physical activity. A meta-analysis of 17 studies showed a statistically significant moderate pooled effect (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.4, p < 0.001) of peer-led self-management programs on physical activity immediately post-intervention. The intervention had a large statistically significant effect based on the four studies that included follow-up measures (SMD = 1.5, p = 0.03). Meta-analysis of nine studies that used similar outcomes (i.e., minutes of physical activity) revealed a statistically significant small effect (SMD = 0.2, p < 0.001).
Peer-led self-management programs appear to be effective at increasing weekly duration of physical activity in various populations, but the effect size is small. Training peers to encourage increased physical activity may provide an effective method for reaching various clinical and non-clinical populations. More research is needed using validated and consistent physical activity outcomes.