Background: It is increasingly well documented that physical activity (PA)
is a key preventive behavior and that visits to a physician provide an impo
rtant opportunity for advice and counseling. This paper reports on physicia
n counseling behaviors regarding PA and other chronic disease risk factors
from a national survey.
Methods: A diverse sample of U.S. adults (N=1818), with oversampling of low
er-income households, was surveyed about their PA level as well as a host o
f social, environmental, and physician counseling issues.
Results: Overall, 28% of respondents reported receiving physician advice to
increase their PA level. Of those who received ad-vice, only 38% received
help formulating a specific activity plan and 42% received follow-up suppor
t. Patients who received advice and support were more likely to be older, n
onwhite, and to have more chronic illnesses and more contact with their doc
Conclusions: Physician advice, counseling, and follow-up are important comp
onents of the social-environmental supports needed to increase population P
A levels. Health system changes, including teaching communication skills, p
rompts to use those skills, and system changes to support attention to PA,
are needed to extend promotion of PA to more patients.