Background: In accordance with one of the Year 2000 Health Objectives, the current study tests the efficacy of brief physician-based counseling to increase physical activity in sedentary patients in a nonrandomized controlled trial.
Methods: Control and intervention physicians were matched on medical practice variables. Two hundred fifty-five apparently healthy, sedentary, adult patients were recruited from 17 physician offices (mean age = 39 years, 84% female, 28% ethnic minority). Intervention physicians delivered 3 to 5 min of structured physical activity counseling during a well visit or follow-up for a chronic condition. A health educator made a brief booster phone call to patients 2 weeks after receiving physician counseling. Self-reported physical activity and stage of change (i.e., behavioral readiness to adopt or maintain activity) were collected at baseline and at 4- to 6-week follow-up. Objective activity monitoring was conducted on a subsample.
Results: Intervention patients reported increased walking more than control patients (+37 min/week vs. +7 min/week). There was a significant intervention effect on the activity monitor. Intervention participants also demonstrated a greater increase in readiness to adopt activity than control subjects.
Conclusions: Physician-based counseling for physical activity is efficacious in producing short-term increases in moderate physical activity among previously sedentary patients.