Prompting primary providers to increase community exercise referrals for older adults: a randomized trial

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Feb;53(2):283-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.53115.x.


Objectives: To determine whether a clinic-based physical activity promotion intervention can lead to more community-based exercise referrals by providers and higher exercise motivation in patients.

Design: Cluster randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: Seattle Veterans Affairs General Internal Medicine Clinic.

Participants: Thirty-one physicians and nurse practitioners were randomized to a physical activity counseling intervention or control condition (counseling about tobacco cessation). Three hundred thirty-six patients aged 50 and older and visiting a study provider were enrolled.

Intervention: Intervention providers were trained to offer referrals to community exercise programs for patients who reported before their clinic visit that they were "contemplative" about regular exercise.

Measurements: Process measures of health behavior assessment and provider advice, exercise stage-of-change, proportion of participants reporting regular physical activity.

Results: At baseline, 172 intervention patients and 164 controls were similar with respect to sex, age, comorbidity score, and exercise motivation level. Forty-five percent of all intervention patients and 35% of controls reported receiving exercise advice (P=.07). Intervention patients who were contemplative about exercise were even more likely to receive exercise advice than contemplative controls (59% vs 38%; P=.02). After 4 months, 35% of all intervention patients reported regular exercise, compared with 28% of controls (P=.06).

Conclusion: Primary providers are more likely to offer exercise advice when informed whether patients are contemplative about exercise. Patients may be more likely to start regular exercise as a result of this advice.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Community Health Services*
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Referral and Consultation*