Background: Exercise counselling is not frequently conducted by family physicians in several countries. Little is known about the exercise counselling practices of family physicians in Canada. The objective of this study was to assess physician confidence, current versus desired practice, and barriers related to the counselling of exercise by family physicians in Canada.
Methods: The study was a cross-sectional survey that included a random selection of family physicians in six provinces. A total of 330 family physicians completed the questionnaire, resulting in a response rate of 61.1%. A family physician was defined as a physician who practices family medicine at least 75% of their practice time.
Results: A total of 58.2% believed only 0-25% of their patients would respond to their counselling and 42.4% felt "moderately knowledgeable" to exercise counsel. Only 11.8% counselled 76-100% of their patients about exercise, but 43.3% thought they should be counselling 76-100% of their patients. Barriers to exercise counselling that rated most important included lack of time (65.7%) and lack of exercise education in medical school (64.8%).
Conclusions: Family physicians indicated their current level of exercise counselling is suboptimal and confidence levels in exercise counselling were not high. Future educational opportunities for physicians may assist in improving exercise counselling.