2016 - Research

Cost-Effectiveness of Population-Level Physical Activity Interventions

A Systematic Review


School-based programs and opportunities for active travel can be cost-effective interventions for increasing physical activity, but continued study is needed.


  • Building a community rail trail was the most cost-effective method of increasing physical activity at a population level at $.006/MET-hour. MET-hours are a measure of the rate of energy expenditure during physical activity.
  • Built environment (parks, trails for walking and biking) and school health education programs were some of the most cost-effective physical interventions.
  • Four out of six environmental interventions had low cost-effectiveness ratios, meaning than an increase in physical activity could be achieved at lower cost.
  • School-based interventions with games and sports equipment or implementing environmental changes in the school area were more cost-effective than a program to encourage active travel to school. However, the research only reviewed one intervention to promote active transportation to school (TravelSMART).
  • A school-based program encouraging commuting by walking, biking, or public transit (TravelSMART) cost $.79 per MET-hour gained per person per day.


  • This research is based on a systematic review of 10 articles published in online databases.

Laine, J., Kuvaja-Kollner, V., Pietila, Eija, Koivuneva, M., Valtonen, H., Kankaanpaa, E. (2014). American Journal of Health Promotion. 29 (2), 71-80.

Authored by: 
Laine J.
Kuvaja-Kollner V.
Pietila Eija
Koivuneva M.
Valtonen H.
Kankaanpaa E.