Healthcare professionals are influential sources of health information and guidance for people of all ages. However healthcare providers do not routinely address physical activity (PA). Engaging health professionals in a national plan for physical activity will depend upon whether proven strategies can be found to promote PA within clinical settings.
The literature on promoting PA in healthcare settings was reviewed, as were recommendations from healthcare organizations and evidence-gathering entities about whether and how PA should be promoted in healthcare.
Evidence is mixed about whether interventions based in healthcare settings and offered by healthcare providers can improve PA behaviors in patients. Brief stand-alone counseling by physicians has not been shown to be efficacious, but office-based screening and advice to be active, followed by telephone or community support for PA has proven effective in creating lasting PA behavior improvement. Healthcare delivery models that optimize the organization of services across clinical and community resources may be very compatible with PA promotion in health care. Because of the importance of PA to health, healthcare providers are encouraged to consider adding PA as a vital sign for each medical visit for individuals aged 6 years and older.
Patrick is with the Dept of Family & Preventive Medicine, University of California–San Diego, La Jolla, CA. Pratt is with the Physical Activity and Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Sallis is with the Dept of Family Medicine, University of California–Riverside, Fontana, CA.