Therapy-based exercise from the perspective of adult patients: a qualitative systematic review conducted using an ethnographic approach

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Objectives: Many patients do not meet recommended levels of therapy-based exercise. This review aims to explore how adult patients view being prescribed therapy-based exercise, the information/education they are given and receive and if/how they independently practise and adhere. Design: A qualitative systematic review conducted using an ethnographic approach and in accordance with the PRISMA statement. Sources: PubMed, CINAHL, SCOPUS and EMBASE databases (01 January 2000–31 December 2018). Methods: Qualitative studies with a focus on engagement/adherence with therapy-based exercise were included. Data extraction and quality appraisal were undertaken by two reviewers. Results were discussed and data synthesized. Results: A total of 20,294 titles were screened, with data extracted from 39 full texts and data from 18 papers used to construct three themes. ‘The Guidance received’ suggests that the type of delivery desired to support and sustain engagement was context-dependent and individually situated. ‘The Therapist as teacher’ advocates that patients see independent therapy-based exercise as a shared activity and value caring, kind and professional qualities in their therapist. ‘The Person as learner’ proposes that when having to engage with and practise therapy-based exercise because of ill-health, patients often see themselves as new learners who experience fear and uncertainty about what to do. Patients may have unacknowledged ambivalences about learning that impact on engagement and persistence. Conclusion: The quality of the interaction between therapists and patients appears integral to patients engaging with, and sustaining practice of, rehabilitation programmes. Programmes need to be individualized, and health care professionals need to take patients’ previous experiences and ambivalences in motivation and empowerment into account.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1963-1977
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Rehabilitation
Issue number12
Early online date13 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • adherence
  • learning and teaching
  • Patient education
  • qualitative synthesis
  • therapy-based exercise


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