Physical activity and exercise counselling: a cross-sectional study of family practice patients in Estonia

Qual Prim Care. 2012;20(5):355-63.


Background: Low levels of physical activity are common in developed countries. Therefore, regular exercise counselling in family practice is potentially important.

Aims: To assess the physical activity of consecutive patients in family practice settings and to find out whether patients seek advice from their family doctors (FDs) regarding physical activity.

Methods: The study group was made up of consecutive patients aged 18 to 75 years from five family practices across Estonia. Every patient completed a questionnaire to assess physical activity and exercise counselling. The patient's level of physical activity in metabolic units per week (MET, min/week) was calculated on the basis of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Questions about counselling for physical activity and lifestyle were also included.

Results: The total number of patients was 239. According to the IPAQ, 47% of the patients showed high (MET ≥ 3001), 41% moderate (MET = 601-3000) and 12% low (MET leq 600) physical activity during the previous seven days. Higher physical activity was observed in patients living in rural rather than urban areas (P = 0.025) and in patients who did not suffer from a chronic disease (P = 0.044). Twenty-three percent of participants reported having sought their FD's advice on physical activity and 34% reported that they had received counselling for physical activity.

Conclusions: Physical activity levels in consecutive family practice patients were high in Estonia: 88% of patients reported a moderate or high level of physical activity. In patients' opinions, FDs mostly counsel elderly and obese patients and those with chronic diseases. By contrast, the overall frequency of counselling for physical activity was low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Fat
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chronic Disease
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult