Background: The question of whether the public health issue of physical inactivity should be addressed in primary health care is a controversial matter.
Methods: Baseline cross-sectional analysis of a physician-based physical activity intervention trial involving sedentary adults was undertaken within 42 rural and urban family practices in New Zealand to examine self-reported levels of physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors. A self-administered single question about physical activity was used to screen 40- to 79-year-old patients from waiting rooms for physical inactivity.
Results: The positive predictive value of the screening question was 81%. Participation rates for the study were high, including 74% of family physicians (n = 117) in the region. Eighty-eight percent of consecutive patients in the age group agreed to be screened and 46% were identified as sedentary. Of those eligible, 66% (n = 878) agreed to participate in a study involving a lifestyle intervention from their family physician. Blood pressure and BMI were significantly greater than that in the general population. There were high rates of hypertension (52%), diabetes (10.5%), obesity (43%), previous cardiovascular disease (19%), and risk factors for cardiovascular disease (93%). Decreasing total energy expenditure was associated with increasing cardiovascular risk (P = 0.001).
Conclusion: Sedentary adults in primary care represent a high cardiovascular risk population. Screening for inactivity in primary care is effective and efficient. Two-thirds of sedentary adults agreed to receive a lifestyle intervention from their family physician.