Objective: To assess how often physicians counsel patients about exercise and to identify which primary care internists infrequently counsel about it.
Design: Cross-sectional survey of a random sample of primary care internists in Massachusetts. Questions covered physicians' attitudes, beliefs, and practices with respect to counseling about exercise; physicians' perceived barriers to counseling about exercise; physicians' personal exercise frequency; and physician demographics.
Participants: Of 1,000 physicians, 687 were eligible and 422 returned usable questionnaires (response rate 61%).
Results: Data describing physician demographics, practice setting, measures of personal fitness, and beliefs regarding exercise were entered into a logistic regression model. The characteristic that best identified physicians who infrequently counsel about exercise was their perceived lack of success at counseling (OR 22.83, 95% CI 8.36-62.31). Other independent predictors of infrequent counselling were physicians' lack of conviction that exercise is very important (OR 4.86, 95% CI 1.70-13.91), physician age < or = 40 years (OR 3.08, 95% CI 1.33-7.15), and higher physician resting heart rate (OR 3.45, 95% CI 1.46-8.18).
Conclusions: Several factors were found to be independently associated with the likelihood of a physician's counseling about exercise. These included physician perceived success at counseling, physician belief that exercise is important, physician age, and physician resting heart rate. These results suggest possible strategies to improve physician's counseling efforts.