Physical activity promotion in the health care system

Mayo Clin Proc. 2013 Dec;88(12):1446-61. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.08.020.


Physical activity (PA) and exercise training (ET) have great potential in the prevention, management, and rehabilitation of a variety of diseases, but this potential has not been fully realized in clinical practice. The health care system (HCS) could do much more to support patients in increasing their PA and ET. However, counseling on ET is not used widely by the HCS owing partly to attitudes but mainly to practical obstacles. Extensive searches of MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and ScienceDirect for literature published between January 1, 2000, and January 31, 2013, provided data to assess the critical characteristics of ET counseling. The evidence reveals that especially brief ET counseling is an efficient, effective, and cost-effective means to increase PA and ET and to bring considerable clinical benefits to various patient groups. Furthermore, it can be practiced as part of the routine work of the HCS. However, there is a need and feasible means to increase the use and improve the quality of ET counseling. To include PA and ET promotion as important means of comprehensive health care and disease management, a fundamental change is needed. Because exercise is medicine, it should be seen and dealt with in the same ways as pharmaceuticals and other medical interventions regarding the basic and continuing education and training of health care personnel and processes to assess its needs and to prescribe and deliver it, to reimburse the services related to it, and to fund research on its efficacy, effectiveness, feasibility, and interactions and comparability with other preventive, therapeutic, and rehabilitative modalities. This change requires credible, strong, and skillful advocacy inside the medical community and the HCS.

Keywords: CVD; DPP; EE; ET; ETR; HCS; HMEE; PA; PC; PHC; PIA; QALY; cardiovascular disease; death prevented or postponed; energy expenditure; exercise training; exercise training referral; health care system; household management energy expenditure; perfect care; physical activity; physical inactivity; primary health care; quality-adjusted life year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Directive Counseling* / methods
  • Directive Counseling* / organization & administration
  • Directive Counseling* / standards
  • Directive Counseling* / statistics & numerical data
  • Directive Counseling* / trends
  • Employment
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Exercise*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Thinness / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers