Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration (SPARColl)

Ongoing      Start date   January 2008      End date   December 2010 

SPARColl is hosted by the University of Strathclyde, funded by the Scottish Government and managed by NHS Health Scotland. The collaboration aims to contribute to the evidence base on physical activity and health by evaluating the effects of interventions, with a particular interest in walking as a mode of physical activity.  The work plan of SPARColl to date has been designed in two phases. A major component of the first phase (2005-06) of SPARColl was a systematic review of the effects of interventions on how much people walk, drawing on studies in any field ranging from health care and exercise science to transport and environmental change.  This review was conducted by a team led from this Unit. The findings of the systematic review contributed to the development of primary intervention research in phase 2 of SPARColl.

Review findings
The most promising studies included in the review suggest that it is possible to increase walking in motivated or targeted people, at least in the short term, by up to about 30-60 minutes per week. Different people may respond to different approaches which suit their psychological characteristics or life circumstances. In other words, one size may not fit all and a variety of approaches should be offered: some people may respond best to individual advice from their doctor, others may prefer the private feedback from a pedometer, others may respond to interventions delivered through the internet, others may prefer or need the social support of a walking group, and others may increase their walking in response to prompts about reducing their car use on environmental grounds.

Phase 2
A major focus of Phase 2 of SPARColl was a randomised controlled trial to investigate how to increase and sustain walking behaviour in a community in the West of Scotland (Walking for Well-being in the West study). The main objective of the WWW study is to determine if pedometers, in conjunction with physical activity counselling, can increase and maintain independent walking behaviour over 12 months. The study is examining the complex relationship between behavioural change, health consequences and the role of the environment, along with participants' views and experiences and the cost effectiveness of this approach. Liz Fenwick is undertaking an economic evaluation of the intervention. 

Click here for more information.



Gray S, Baker G, Wright A, Fitzsimons C, Mutrie N, Nimmo M, Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration. The effect of a 12 week walking intervention on markers of insulin resistance and systemic inflammation. Preventive Medicine 2009;48:39-44


Millington C, Ward-Thompson C, Rowe D, Aspinall P, Fitzsimons C, Nelson N, Mutrie N, and (on behalf of SPARColl: the Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration) . Development of the Scottish Walkability Assessment Tool (SWAT). Health & Place 2009;15:474-81



Baker G, Gray S, Wright A, Fitzsimons C, Nimmo M, Lowry R, Mutrie N, the Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration . The effect of a pedometer-based community walking intervention 'Walking for Wellbeing in the West' on physical activity levels and health outcomes: a 12-week randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008;7:44

pubmed  open access  

Baker G, Mutrie N, Lowry R. Using pedometers as motivational tools. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education 2008;46:21-26

Fitzsimons C, Baker G, Wright A, Nimmo M, Ward-Thompson C, Lowry R, Millington C, Shaw R, Fenwick E, Ogilvie D, Inchley J, Foster C, Mutrie N. The ‘Walking for Wellbeing in the West’ randomised controlled trial of a pedometer-based walking programme in combination with a physical activity consultation with 12 month follow-up: rationale and study design. BMC Public Health 2008;8:259

pubmed  open access  


Ogilvie D, Foster C E, Rothnie H, Cavill N, Hamilton V, Fitzsimons C F, Mutrie N, on behalf of the Scottish Physical Activity Research Collaboration . Interventions to promote walking: systematic review. BMJ 2007;334:1204-7

pubmed  open access  

Former Staff


  • Evidence base The existing body of research on any given topic
  • Modal shift The change from one preferred means of transport (e.g., travel by car) to another (e.g., cycling)
  • Systematic review A type of literature review which uses a particular approach involving (among other things) a comprehensive search for literature, and a formal assessment of the quality of each study
View all glossary entries