Advice on exercise from a family physician can help sedentary patients to become active

  • Fiona C Bull
    Address correspondence to: Dr. Fiona Bull, Department of Public Health and Human Movement, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands Western Australia 6907
    Department of Public Health and Human Movement, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, 6907
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  • Konrad Jamrozik
    Department of Public Health and Human Movement, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Perth, Western Australia, 6907
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      Objectives: To test the effectiveness, in the setting of primary health care, of verbal advice on exercise from a family physician (FP) combined with supporting written information.
      Design: A controlled trial with subjects allocated to a control group or one of two intervention groups using a balanced design based on day of the week.
      Setting: Ten general practices in Perth, Western Australia.
      Subjects: All sedentary patients consulting an FP.
      Intervention: Verbal advice on exercise from the FP and a pamphlet on exercise mailed to the patient’s home address within 2 days of his/her visit to the doctor.
      Main outcome measure: Level of physical activity at follow-up.
      Results: 6,351 adult patients attending an FP practice completed a screening questionnaire, and 763 sedentary adults were recruited to the project. The response to follow-up, via a postal survey at 1, 6, and 12 months after the index consultation was 70%, 60%, and 57%, respectively. At 1 month a subsample of the control and intervention subjects were contacted for a telephone interview to verify self-reported levels of activity (n = 136). Treating all nonresponders as sedentary, at 1 month significantly more subjects in the combined intervention groups reported doing some physical activity (40%) compared with the control group (31%). Similarly, at 6 months, 30% of the control group and 38% of the combined intervention groups were “now active.” There was very little change at follow-up at 12 months (31% control and 36% intervention groups, respectively).
      Conclusion: A simple intervention aimed at the promotion of physical activity to sedentary patients in general practice can help reduce inactivity.


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