The content of diet and physical activity consultations with older adults in primary care

Patient Educ Couns. 2014 Jun;95(3):319-24. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2014.03.020. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Objective: Despite numerous benefits of consuming a healthy diet and receiving regular physical activity, engagement in these behaviors is suboptimal. Since primary care visits are influential in promoting healthy behaviors, we sought to describe whether and how diet and physical activity are discussed during older adults' primary care visits.

Methods: 115 adults aged 65 and older consented to have their routine primary care visits recorded. Audio-recorded visits were transcribed and diet and physical activity content was coded and analyzed.

Results: Diet and physical activity were discussed in the majority of visits. When these discussions occurred, they lasted an average of a minute and a half. Encouragement and broad discussion of benefits of improved diet and physical activity levels were the common type of exchange. Discussions rarely involved patient behavioral self-assessments, patient questions, or providers' recommendations.

Conclusions: The majority of patient visits include discussion of diet and physical activity, but these discussions are often brief and rarely include recommendations.

Practice implications: Providers may want to consider ways to expand their lifestyle behavior discussions to increase patient involvement and provide more detailed, actionable recommendations for behavior change. Additionally, given time constraints, a wider array of approaches to lifestyle counseling may be necessary.

Keywords: Counseling; Health promotion; Older adults; Qualitative.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Counseling*
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Office Visits
  • Patient Participation
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Tape Recording