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Br J Gen Pract. 2017 Oct;67(663):e668-e675. doi: 10.3399/bjgp17X692513. Epub 2017 Aug 14.

GPs' knowledge, use, and confidence in national physical activity and health guidelines and tools: a questionnaire-based survey of general practice in England.

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Public Health England, London, and GP with special interest in sports and exercise medicine, MICAS (Musculoskeletal Interface Clinical Assessment Service), Battersea Healthcare, Battersea, London.
Health Improvement Directorate, Public Health England, London.



Physical activity (PA) brief advice in health care is effective at getting individuals active. It has been suggested that one in four people would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse, but as many as 72% of GPs do not discuss the benefits of physical activity with patients.


To assess the knowledge, use, and confidence in national PA and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) health guidelines and tools among GPs in England.


Online questionnaire-based survey of self-selecting GPs in England that took place over a 10-day period in March 2016.


The questionnaire consisted of six multiple-choice questions and was available on the (DNUK) homepage. Quotas were used to ensure good regional representation.


The final analysis included 1013 responses. Only 20% of responders were broadly or very familiar with the national PA guidelines. In all, 70% of GPs were aware of the General Practice Physical Activity Questionnaire (GPPAQ), but 26% were not familiar with any PA assessment tools, and 55% reported that they had not undertaken any training with respect to encouraging PA.


The majority of GPs in England (80%) are unfamiliar with the national PA guidelines. Awareness of the recommended tool for assessment, GPPAQ, is higher than use by GPs. This may be because it is used by other clinical staff, for example, as part of the NHS Health Check programme. Although brief advice in isolation by GPs on PA will only be a part of the behaviour change journey, it is an important prompt, especially if repeated as part of routine practice. This study highlights the need for significant improvement in knowledge, skills, and confidence to maximise the potential for PA advice in GP consultations.


CMO guidelines; GPPAQ; exercise; general practice; physical fitness; questionnaires

[Available on 2018-10-01]

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