Graduating medical students' exercise prescription competence as perceived by deans and directors of medical education in the United States: implications for Healthy People 2010

Public Health Rep. 2001 May-Jun;116(3):226-34. doi: 10.1093/phr/116.3.226.


Objectives: This study examined perceptions of deans and directors of medical education at 128 allopathic schools of medicine in the US about the importance of physical activity and exercise topics, and their perceptions about the competence of graduating medical students to perform six fundamental skills related to exercise prescription. Healthy People 2010 recommends that clinicians counsel all patients about regular physical activity. However, in previous studies physicians identified lack of training as a barrier to physical activity counseling, and they questioned their own ability to advise patients properly.

Methods: Using the 17-item Exercise and Physical Activity Competence Questionnaire, data were collected from 72 of 128 medical schools, for a response rate of 56%.

Results: While 58% of respondents indicated their typical graduate was competent in conducting a patient evaluation for the purpose of approving that patient to begin an exercise program, only 10% said their students could design an exercise prescription. Only 6% of respondents reported that their school provided a core course addressing the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription.

Conclusions: Findings suggest a need for more undergraduate medical training in physical activity and exercise prescription.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Health Priorities
  • Health Promotion / standards*
  • Humans
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Prescriptions / standards*
  • Schools, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States