Mentro Allan

About the programme | Research | Publications | Independent research | The impact of Mentro Allan

About the programme

The Mentro Allan programme (2005-2011) was conceived to collect evidence on the effectiveness of interventions designed to increase levels of low and moderate physical activity amongst previously sedentary individuals, through using the natural environment.

Sport Wales led a National Partnership of organisations which managed the programme. The partners were Sport Wales, Countryside Council for Wales, Public Health Wales, Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and the Welsh Local Government Association. Fifteen projects were set up and run by local partners across Wales, each aiming to increase physical activity amongst one or more target groups.

Target groups included young people at risk of disengagement, young women, older people, people on low incomes, people with physical or learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, carers, people experiencing rural isolation, and ethnic minority communities.

Research into behaviour change and the natural environment

The National Partnership agreed four research questions (or 'learning outcomes') to focus the evidence collected on research gaps identified by stakeholders:

  • How do people in different sedentary groups change their behaviour to get active and stay active?
  • What support do people in different sedentary groups need to get involved, change their behaviour and sustain that change?
  • What effect does an outdoor location have on people's experience of physical activity? Does this make a difference to staying active?
  • What partnership, management and service delivery arrangements work best to support long-term behaviour change?

The first task of local partnerships was to identify potential participants in selected localities around Wales for whom tailor-made outreach and support projects could be designed and delivered to change their lifestyles. Each project adopted an experimental approach, testing what seemed to work through observation and dialogue with participants using action research. This helped successful practical strategies to be honed through user feedback.


A series of publications were produced by the National Partnership, using the information collected through the participatory action research process. The experiences described in the papers were distilled from the carefully recorded experiences of these projects as they first made contact with their target participants, began to understand their needs, gave them their first taste of physical activity, helped them establish a regular pattern of activity and then supported their transition towards sustainable active lifestyles independent of the projects.

  • Briefing papers are aimed at local or national project/service managers and policy makers. Each briefing paper covers a different topic although there are many aspects that inter-relate.
  • Practitioner guides are designed to support people implementing projects in the field. These guides will be of use to anyone that is interested in physical activity, health, equality, the natural environment, volunteering, project management and participant-led projects.
  • A series of case studies have been collected from the Mentro Allan local projects covering the four Learning Outcomes for the main programme. These case studies will share a story, demonstrate the impact of the project and highlight the lessons learnt.

Independent research

In addition to the participatory action research methods, an independent research team based at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) (University of the West of England and the University of Gloucestershire) and the University of Bath undertook research to capture the voices and experiences of participants and project staff directly.

Their report explores how people can become more active and how organisations can support them to achieve this, as well as the effect of an activity's outdoor location on participation and participants' experiences.

The impact of Mentro Allan

Statistics collated for the final programme report show that:

  • Mentro Allan had contact with 9,739 individuals.
  • Projects targeted people in the demographic communities they were intending to reach, though it was often 'messy' or 'fuzzy at the edges' with a proportion of people attending being friends or family of the individuals who met the target criteria.
  • Projects were successful in targeting sedentary people, though here again there were people who already met the Welsh Government's recommended levels of physical activity.
  • Those who were relatively inactive, reporting an initial activity level of fewer than three days with more than 30 minutes of moderate of vigorous physical activity, were likely to increase their physical activity after 6-12 months contact with Mentro Allan. Of those who completed three physical activity level (PAL) forms, 41 percent had increased their physical activity to three or more days of 30 minutes moderate or vigorous physical activity a week.
  • Those who were in contact with the projects after 6 months showed an increase in their use of the outdoors for their physical activity.
  • Staff and volunteers undertook a wide range of training, with at least 204 people receiving training. The most common courses were for walking and first aid.
  • Projects used a wide variety of activities to engage with people. Projects were people led in their choice of activities, so the attendance profile at activities shows the positive choices of the participants. However, there were geographical and  capacity/experience limitations for some activities, so some projects did not provide some activities at all.