Physical Activity And Health – Part I | The 50 Zone Magazine : Mens Information On Wellness, Health, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Women, Style And Fashion


Physical Activity and Health – Part I

by Bob Gurney

In the previous article presented in ‘the 50 zone’, health providers in sports sciences and medicine were identified and described. In this article, we review challenges and solutions for health care professionals addressing strategies of physical activity in the management of patients.

The increasing burden of chronic disease places greater demands on Health Care Providers to develop and implement strategies to manage lifestyle risk factors presented by their patients. Physical activity has been identified as a prescription for managing health risk factors, however effective prescriptions and exercise management strategies are absent in rural health care. The literature has been extensive over the past few decades, claiming that prescribed physical activity has been effective in managing patients with risk factors of poor health and chronic disease. The literature and practices of exercise strategies are supportive in managing patients at risk, yet neglect the patients who would benefit from exercise/physical activity prescriptions as preventative measures prior to symptoms prompting such intervention.

Primary care may benefit from further counselling, support systems and collaboration with exercise specialists. General Practitioners, (Eley and Eley, 2009) report that there are limited resources available in rural Queensland (Australia), to support family physicians in developing exercise/physical activity prescriptions and counselling for patients. These same physicians recommend formalization of referral pathways and follow-up could be of valuable assistance to rural medical doctors in providing their patients with effective exercise/physical activity prescriptions and counselling.

Buffart and colleagues (2009) describe the literature reporting the importance of exercise and physical activity. Health benefits include a lower risk of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, overweight, some forms of cancer, depression and many other factors that improve quality of life. Physical inactivity and a lack of exercise are recognized as a leading contributor to disease. Medical practices should be an important setting for promoting physical activity, for several reasons. First, health professionals can reach a large population because the majority of people visit a health professional at least once a year. Second, patients have identified health professionals as a credible source of information and their abilities to provide patients with referrals to address their health concerns, issues and interests. Third, health care professionals usually have a long lasting relationship with their patients, which enable them to offer long-term health management and follow-up. Fourth, a range of intervention studies and numerous literature reviews have reported that health care provider’s recommendations of patient referrals to exercise/physical activity specialists can increase the adoption of exercise by patients. The American College of Preventative Medicine takes the position that primary care health should include physical activity counseling into routine patient visits.

Aittasalo (2008) describes the attitudes of health care professionals towards exercise/physical activity counseling as being positive, and the importance of exercise/physical activity for long-term health is well acknowledged in the literature. However, the practice of providing exercise/physical activity counseling is generally low among physicians. Physicians that provide exercise/physical activity counseling neglect the use of formalized instruments, written materials, and referrals are seldom practiced. Physician counseling also lacks patient-centeredness, which is an important factor from the effectiveness point of view. The most frequently indicated barrier for not promoting exercise/physical activity to patients has been reported by physicians, indicating the lack of time. Other barriers have included the physician’s lack of skills, confidence and knowledge in the field of exercise/physical activity prescriptions and counseling. The literature acknowledges that to effectively promote and implement exercise/physical activity through the medical professions, support through pathways of patient referrals to exercise specialists is critical to the success.


Aittasalo, M. (2008). Physical activity counseling in primary health care.

Scand J Med Sci Sports: 18: 261-262.

Buffart, L.M, et al (2009). General practitioners’ perceptions and practices of physical activity

Counseling: changes over the past 10 years. Br J Sports Med: 43: 1149-1153.

Eley, D. and Eley, R. (2009). How do rural GPs manage their inactive and overweight patients? A pilot study of rural GPs in Queensland. Australian Family Physician. Vol. 38, No. 9, September.

Author: Bob Gurney



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