Active Health Care Providers’ Practices and Views on Counseling Patients to be Active

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It is of public health importance to identify strategies for increasing U.S. physical activity levels because of the strong relationship between physical activity and health. One strategy is by having health care providers prescribe physical activity to their patients. The purposes of this study were to assess health care providers’ physical activity levels, to evaluate knowledge of benefits of physical activity, to examine barriers to counseling physical activity to patients, and to determine whether a relationship exists between health care providers’ physical activity levels and barriers to physical activity counseling. Health care providers (N = 30) wore an accelerometer for 1 wk and completed the International Physical Activity Questionnaire and a physical activity counseling questionnaire. Ninety-three percent of providers met physical activity guidelines. Only 7% of providers reported knowing physical activity recommendations; however, 87% reported providing physical activity counseling to patients. The benefits of physical activity reported were maintaining overall health and reducing the risk for disease development. The physical activity counseling barriers reported were lack of time and patient interest. Among this active sample of health care providers, personal activity habits did not influence physical activity promotion practices with patients. The main physical activity counseling barriers reported were lack of time and lack of patient interest. More research is needed to determine whether this finding and the barriers of time and the perception of lack of patient interest persist among providers who are not as physically active. From a translational perspective, health care providers should be educated to promote physical activity for their patients. These education opportunities should occur through professional coursework and continuing education credits.

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