Evidence supports the effectiveness of interventions delivered in primary care to promote physical activity (PA). Specifically, approaches where physician counseling is coupled with other strategies (eg, referrals to community resources) have been recognized as the most promising. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of a PA prescription plus referral intervention versus a prescription only intervention delivered in primary care. Ten family physicians and their female patients (N = 35, mean age = 36 years) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 conditions: prescription plus (n = 12), prescription only (n = 12), and usual care (n = 11). The prescription plus group received a PA prescription plus a referral to a community program, the prescription only group received only the PA prescription, and the usual care group received usual health care. The Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire was used to measure PA. A significant increase on the PA score (P < .05, partial η(2) = .178) and on total weekly PA minutes (P < .05, partial η(2) = .179) was observed in both prescription groups after the intervention. There were no significant group differences (P > .05). No PA changes were observed in the usual care group. Findings from this pilot study suggest that brief PA counseling and a prescription delivered in primary care can be effective for promoting PA among women. Referring patients did not seem to enhance the effect on PA.
Keywords: health promotion; impact evaluation; lifestyle change; physical activity; primary care.