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Exercise Prescription May Get Patients Moving

Precise instructions to patients associated with increased physical activity after six months

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- In primary care practices, prescribing a physical activity plan specifying the frequency, intensity, duration and progression over time may prompt patients to start exercising regularly, researchers report in the April 13 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Gonzalo Grandes, M.D., of the Basque Health Service-Osakidetza in Bilbao, Spain, and colleagues randomly assigned 56 family physicians to either an "Experimental Program for Physical Activity Promotion" (PEPAF) group or a standard-care group. The PEPAF group recruited 2,248 physically inactive patients for the intervention while the standard-care group recruited 2,069 physically inactive controls.

After six months, the researchers found that the PEPAF patients had a higher level of physical activity than controls, with adjusted differences of 18 minutes of physical activity and 1.3 metabolic equivalent tasks x hours per week. They also found that 3.9 percent more of the PEPAF patients achieved the minimum recommended physical activity level.

"Although prescriptions are rarely given by primary care physicians because they require more time, support and training than minimal advice, primary care physicians may play a much greater role by devoting more time to patients who are prepared to address the objectives of a physical activity plan," the authors conclude. "Further efforts for dissemination of effective prescription tools and a call to action for primary care practitioners to use them are needed."

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