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Prev Med. 1996 May-Jun;25(3):225-33.

A controlled trial of physician counseling to promote the adoption of physical activity.

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  • 1San Diego State University, California 92182, USA.



In accordance with one of the Year 2000 Health Objectives, the current study tests the efficacy of brief physician-based counseling to increase physical activity in sedentary patients in a nonrandomized controlled trial.


Control and intervention physicians were matched on medical practice variables. Two hundred fifty-five apparently healthy, sedentary, adult patients were recruited from 17 physician offices (mean age = 39 years, 84% female, 28% ethnic minority). Intervention physicians delivered 3 to 5 min of structured physical activity counseling during a well visit or follow-up for a chronic condition. A health educator made a brief booster phone call to patients 2 weeks after receiving physician counseling. Self-reported physical activity and stage of change (i.e., behavioral readiness to adopt or maintain activity) were collected at baseline and at 4- to 6-week follow-up. Objective activity monitoring was conducted on a subsample.


Intervention patients reported increased walking more than control patients (+37 min/week vs. +7 min/week). There was a significant intervention effect on the activity monitor. Intervention participants also demonstrated a greater increase in readiness to adopt activity than control subjects.


Physician-based counseling for physical activity is efficacious in producing short-term increases in moderate physical activity among previously sedentary patients.

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