Background: Regular physical activity reduces the risk for chronic diseases among older adults. Older adults are likely to be seen by primary care clinicians who can play a role in promoting physical activity among their patients.
Design: In this randomized controlled trial (1998-2003; data analyzed 2004-2005), we compared the effects of brief advice to exercise from a clinician supplemented by telephone-based counseling by health educators (extended advice) to brief advice from a clinician alone (brief advice).
Setting/participants: A total of 100 primary care patients (63.2% female, 14.7% minority, mean age=68.5 years) participated in the trial.
Interventions: The extended-advice intervention consisted of clinician advice plus exercise counseling via telephone provided by research staff, and the brief advice condition consisted of clinician advice alone. Both interventions focused on promoting moderate-intensity physical activity.
Main outcome measures: Self-reported physical activity using the 7-Day Physical Activity Recall instrument and objective activity monitoring using Biotrainers were assessed at baseline, and at 3 and 6 months.
Results: Participants in the extended-advice arm reported significantly greater participation in moderate-intensity physical activity than the brief-advice group at 3 months (+57.69 minutes vs 12.45 minutes; 3.84 kcal/week vs 0.83 kcal/week) and 6 months (+62.84 minutes vs 16.60 minutes; 4.19 kcal/week vs 1.1 kcal/week). Objective activity monitoring also showed significantly increased physical activity among extended-advice versus brief-advice participants at both time points (+50.79 vs -11.11; +42.39 vs -24.18, respectively).
Conclusions: These data indicate that clinician advice with follow-up counseling can promote adoption of moderate-intensity physical activity among older, primary care patients.