Project Scope

This report provides practical guidance and support to those delivering physical activity interventions across the UK on how to effectively evaluate their work and shares learnings from the experience of others, focusing on the assessment of design and quality of evaluation, not intervention.

Following the Public Health England commissioned report ‘Identifying what works for local physical inactivity interventions’, the aim of this second review was to identify physical activity interventions in the UK, understand how evaluations are being undertaken to inform and support delivery, to gauge the impact of these interventions and assess progress made within the physical activity sector in terms of evaluation quality. Interventions entered to the review were assigned a level based on the Nesta Standards of Evidence with evaluators considering the quality and design of evaluation as opposed to the quality or impact of the intervention.


  • A higher proportion of projects and programmes are collecting data and embedding evaluation into their delivery, resulting in a higher standard of evidence on physical activity initiatives.
  • An increase in the number of projects eligible for consideration for the higher levels (3, 4 and 5) of the Nesta Standards of Evidence highlighting the progress the sector has made towards evidence-based action.
  • 17 submissions were assigned a Nesta level 3 or above based on their quality of evaluation. This signifies progress in the physical activity sector since the 2014 study which identified two programmes as having reached Nesta level 3 and no programmes at level 4 or 5 based on impact of intervention.


During the process it became apparent that in reality, for many programmes, evaluation at Nesta Level 3 or higher may not be an achievable or necessary goal. In light of this, advice is provided, in line with Sport England’s Evaluation Framework, on what level of evaluation different types of projects and programmes should aim for.

Two key areas were identified as challenges facing delivery bodies looking to achieve higher levels of evaluation: a lack of valid controls and or independent external evaluations. As a result, Chapter 5 of the report discusses:

  1. What a control group is and why it is important?
  2. What sort of control groups can be used?
  3. The value in using an external evaluator (if appropriate).
  4. The importance of considering evaluation at the earliest opportunity


The guidance and case studies discussed in the report have been provided to help drive continuous improvement. For it is through supporting those looking to implement evidence-based physical activity interventions that the weaknesses detailed within ‘Identifying what works for local physical inactivity interventions’ can be addressed.

Read the report “Moving at scale- Promising practice and practical guidance on evaluation of physical activity programmes in the UK”.