Nav: Home

Primary care physicians primed to help patients be more active

June 21, 2016

Philadelphia, PA, June 21, 2016 - Exercise plays a crucial role in being healthy and preventing disease. Because of their close relationship to patients, primary care physicians (PCPs) can act as a catalyst to help people be more active through physical activity counseling; however, doctors often encounter barriers to being able to properly address inactivity. A new paper from The American Journal of Medicine offers PCPs implementable strategies to break down those barriers and help their patients get more exercise.

In 2014, the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine held a joint symposium to formulate a model for PCPs to draw from when integrating physical activity counseling into their practices. "Despite evidence of the cost effectiveness of physical activity counseling in primary care, only one-third of patients report the receipt of physical activity counseling by their PCPs," stated lead author Mona AuYoung, PhD, MS, MPH, Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D) Advanced Postdoctoral Research Fellow. "PCPs face many barriers to counseling their patients on physical activity. However, they are in a unique position to provide physical activity counseling because of their ability to reach a large segment of the overall population, their role as a trusted source of health information, and the range of other health professionals available within clinics. "

Currently in the U.S. only half of adults meet the most recent CDC guidelines for physical activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week) and disparities exist in physical activity rates by race/ethnicity, gender, age and region. Faced with an increasingly sedentary population, doctors must find ways to help patients be more active. Yet, PCPs currently face many roadblocks to providing adequate physical activity counseling including lack of sufficient time with patients, lack of provider skill, lack of proper reimbursement, inability to reach at-risk patients, not requiring routine activity screenings, and barriers on the patient end.

In order to help PCPs better serve their patients in this regard, the authors explore potential interventions to guide change and suggest a multilevel approach. "With primary care practices," explained Dr. AuYoung, "physical activity screening is the simplest way to begin a conversation about he importance of physical activity. This is especially beneficial to providers who may not otherwise be comfortable initiating this conversation with the patient."

After the physical activity screening, PCPs can offer a "prescription" for physical activity, centered on offering advice about positive lifestyle modifications. The prescription for activity would help ready patients for change and help them to address their specific barriers to exercise. The authors recommend that PCPs employ the 5 As--assess, advise, agree, assist, and arrange. This mnemonic is designed to help to cultivate counseling skills that will engage the patient in developing a specific action plan.

The authors also suggest utilizing additional primary care office resources as an efficient way to provide targeted care without the need for additional time with the physician. "PCPs may work in tandem with other primary care team members so that the nurse practitioner may administer the routine physical activity screening, the PCP may write the prescription to exercise, the exercise physiologist or trainer may create an individualized exercise plan, and the behavioral counselor may follow-up with the patient and refer him/her to local physical activity resources, depending on patient readiness to exercise and preferred forms of physical activity," added Dr. AuYoung.

Another resource PCPs might consider utilizing is wearable technology, such as a fitness tracker, pedometer, or exercise app. Harnessing the power of technology can help lighten the load for PCPs by decreasing the amount of effort needed to track progress. PCPs can also offer additional information on community resources, as well as suggest ideas for workplace modifications that can help employees be more active during the workday.

"The PCP plays a central role in this multilevel approach to physical activity counseling, from helping patients to understand the importance of physical activity to connecting them with various resources for physical activity," concluded Dr. AuYoung. "Using the range of supports for physical activity available at each of these socio-ecological levels can help to increase physical activity counseling in primary care, increase physical activity by patients, and sustain these positive behaviors."
-end-


Elsevier Health Sciences

Related Physical Activity Articles:

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.
Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.
Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.
Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.
Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Light, physical activity reduces brain aging
Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.
Decline in physical activity often starts as early as age 7
Overall physical activity starts to decline already around the age of school entry.
Is it ever too late for adults to benefit from physical activity?
It may never be too late for adults to become physically active and enjoy some health benefits.
More Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.