Objectives: To assess the levels of physical activity and other health related behaviours of General Practitioners (GPs) and compare their reported levels of physical activity with those of the general population.
Study design: Cross sectional postal questionnaire survey.
Methods: A questionnaire, which did not allow identification of individual respondents, was posted to all 1074 (GPs) in Northern Ireland. It included the validated International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and questions relating to smoking and alcohol consumption. A national survey of a representative sample of the general population of similar age (29-67 years; n = 3010) provided comparative data.
Results: 735 GPs responded (68.4%). IPAQ data indicated that fewer GPs (43.4%) were "physically inactive" compared to the general population (56.2%) (p < 0.001) and to a subgroup of professionals (51.8%) (p < 0.016). Compared to the general population, relatively fewer GPs reported smoking (4.2% v 29%; p < 0.001); more reported drinking alcohol (86.5% v 71.6%; p < 0.001) but fewer reported drinking above recommended limits (12.6% v 16.9%; p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that GPs are better than the general population at following health promotion advice. Since their personal habits influence the impact of their advice to their patients, their healthy lifestyles should be encouraged and further efforts should be made to promote activity among those who are physically inactive.
Keywords: Physical activity; Physician; Primary health care; alcohol consumption; smoking.