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Adherence to exercise in later life: How can exercise on prescription programmes be made more effective?A broad consensus has emerged in relation to the desirability of promoting exercise among a variety of ‘at risk’ groups via ‘exercise on prescription’ (EoP) schemes, as an alternative to orthodox, biomedical approaches to the management of health problems. Underpinning the rationale for such schemes is the notion that they can act as vehicles for encouraging long-term adherence to exercise. Whilst there is a common sense appeal to using EoP schemes to promote exercise, research to date suggests that evidence of their impact is limited. This paper attempts to make sense of these findings in the light of recent debates about adult lifestyles and exercise. More specifically, it brings work in the sociology of leisure to bear on the topic, on the premise that any study of adults' propensity towards sustainable physical activity needs to be viewed as an aspect of their lives ‘in the round’. Such an analysis points up the value of synthesizing perspectives from across the disciplinary divide in order to shed light on particular ‘problems’, which obviate the necessity for further empirical work. The paper concludes by identifying a number of implications for public health policy and practice with respect to the matter of encouraging lifelong participation in sport and exercise in general, and via EoP schemes in particular. One such implication is the development of a model for understanding participation that shifts the emphasis away from a focus on motivation and behaviour change per se towards satisfaction and enjoyment through the development of skills and relationships. Reconceptualizing the matter of participation in this way is likely to lead not only to a more realistic appreciation of what can be expected from EoP schemes, but also a more adequate understanding of adherence to exercise in later life.