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Behavioral and Social Approaches to Increase Physical Activity: Family-Based Social Support

Family-based interventions attempt to change health behavior through the use of techniques that increase the support of family members for behavior change. Programs typically include joint or separate educational sessions on health, goal-setting, problem-solving, or family behavioral management and often incorporate some physical activities.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of family-based social support interventions in increasing levels of physical activity or improving fitness because of inconsistent results.

Task Force Finding

About the Interventions

These interventions target factors in the social environment and interpersonal and behavioral patterns that are likely to influence physical activity behaviors.

Interventions in this category targeted to children and their families are often implemented as part of a larger strategy that includes other school-based interventions, such as school-based physical education or classroom-based health education.

Results from the Systematic Review

Eleven studies qualified for the review.

  • As a group, these studies found inconsistent results, with some studies showing increases in activity and others showing decreases.
  • This inconsistency of results across the body of evidence evidence also was seen in the physiologic measures assessed.

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice, and policy related to increasing physical activity.

image of planetFind a Research-tested Intervention Program (RTIP) External Web Site Icon about the use of family-based social support interventions to increase physical activity (What is an RTIP?).

Economic Review

An economic review of this intervention was not conducted because the Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine its effectiveness.

Supporting Materials


Kahn EB, Ramsey LT, Brownson R, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to increase physical activity: a systematic review. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 3.14 MB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22(4S):73-107.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to increase physical activity in communities. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 70 kB] Am J Prev Med 2002;22 (4S):67-72.

CDC. Increasing physical activity. A report on recommendations of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services. MMWR 2001;50 (RR-18):1-16. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Physical activity. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 302 kB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:80-113.

Read other Community Guide publications about Increasing Physical Activity in our library.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Behavioral and social approaches to increase physical activity: family-based social support. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: February 2001