Physician advice and support for physical activity: results from a national survey

Am J Prev Med. 2001 Oct;21(3):189-96. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(01)00350-6.


Background: It is increasingly well documented that physical activity (PA) is a key preventive behavior and that visits to a physician provide an important opportunity for advice and counseling. This paper reports on physician counseling behaviors regarding PA and other chronic disease risk factors from a national survey.

Methods: A diverse sample of U.S. adults (N=1818), with oversampling of lower-income households, was surveyed about their PA level as well as a host of social, environmental, and physician counseling issues.

Results: Overall, 28% of respondents reported receiving physician advice to increase their PA level. Of those who received advice, only 38% received help formulating a specific activity plan and 42% received follow-up support. Patients who received advice and support were more likely to be older, nonwhite, and to have more chronic illnesses and more contact with their doctor.

Conclusions: Physician advice, counseling, and follow-up are important components of the social-environmental supports needed to increase population PA levels. Health system changes, including teaching communication skills, prompts to use those skills, and system changes to support attention to PA, are needed to extend promotion of PA to more patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / methods
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Primary Health Care*