Rationale, aims and objectives: Systematic reviews point to inconclusive evidence that counselling patients in a primary care setting is effective in increasing adults' physical activity (PA) levels. This study evaluates the impact of an innovative physician counselling programme on physicians' PA counselling behaviour and their patients' PA levels.
Methods: A controlled educational study conducted at six Yale School of Medicine hospitals. Sixty-five internal medicine residents and 316 primary care patients were randomized to intervention or control groups. Intervention physicians participated in five interactive sessions outlining details of the Pressure System Model, while control physicians received usual residency training. Intervention and control patients' PA levels and residents counselling behaviour were assessed using a validated questionnaire and compared pre- and post intervention. Data analysis was performed using paired t-tests and repeated measures anova.
Results: At 6-month follow-up intervention, patients' PA levels increased significantly from baseline (1.77 +/- 0.84; P = 0.0376). A similar pattern was observed after 12 months (1.94 +/- 0.98; P = 0.0486). Control patients' PA did not change significantly from baseline at 6 or 12 months (0.35 +/- 1.00; P = 0.7224 and 0.99 +/- 1.52; P = 0.5160, respectively). At 12 months, intervention residents provided PA counselling 1.5 times more than they did at baseline (P < 0.05) compared with no significant changes in the control group.
Conclusions: The present study has shown that providing residents with a practical tool, enabling them to deal with patients' barriers and previous failure in behavioural change, is efficacious in increasing PA levels of adult patients.