Prescribing exercise for older adults: A needs assessment comparing primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants

Gerontol Geriatr Educ. 2006;26(3):81-99. doi: 10.1300/J021v26n03_06.


To inform the development of educational programming designed to teach providers appropriate methods of exercise prescription for older adults, the authors conducted a survey of 177 physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners (39% response rate). The survey was designed to better understand the prevalence of exercise prescriptions, attitudes, barriers, and educational needs of primary care practitioners toward older adults. Forty-seven percent of primary care providers report not prescribing exercise for older adults; 85% of the sample report having no formal training in exercise prescription. Practitioner attitudes were positive toward exercise, but were not predictive of their exercise prescribing behavior, which indicates that education efforts aimed at changing attitudes as a way of increasing exercise-prescribing behaviors would not be sufficient. In order to facilitate and reinforce practice changes to increase exercise-prescribing behaviors of primary care providers, results suggest the need for specific skill training on how to write an exercise prescription and motivate older adults to follow these prescriptions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Education, Medical*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Geriatrics / education*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Nurse Practitioners / education*
  • Physician Assistants / education*