It is time for clinicians to take a more active a role in helping patients to overcome barriers in staying active and healthy, according to a study led by American Cancer Society researchers in collaboration with leading experts. The researchers concluded that physical activity should be routinely assessed during the physician­–patient encounter, and that clinicians should collaborate with their patients to design a detailed physical activity plan to ensure that they adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.1 

The researchers recommended that the physical activity plan set specific goals and that those goals are monitored by the clinician. The study uses concepts from public health and behavioral economics to provide practical advice to clinicians on effective counseling for patients. The time spent by clinicians may pay big dividends.  Physical inactivity is linked to an increased risk for numerous chronic conditions, including several types of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and depression. 

The study, which appears early online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, noted that because physicians’ advice is respected and physician̶patient encounters are frequent, these meetings can be used to provide consistent and comprehensive physical activity counseling. Because so many individuals in the United States are inactive, the researchers suggested that physical activity be routinely assessed at each clinic visit. 

Reference

1. Shuval K, Leonard T, Drope J, et al. Physical activity counseling in primary care: Insights from public health and behavioral economics. CA Cancer J Clin. 2017 Feb 15. doi: 10.3322/caac.21394. [Epub ahead of print]