Physicians’ & Their BMI: Is There a Link When Counseling Patients about Physical Activity?

Research Paper Title

Factors that Influence Physicians’ and Medical Students’ Confidence in Counseling Patients about Physical Activity.

Background

Less than half of US adults and two-thirds of US high school students do not meet current US guidelines for physical activity.

Methods

The researchers examined which factors promoted physicians’ and medical students’ confidence in counseling patients about physical activity. They established an online exercise survey targeting attending physicians, resident and fellow physicians, and medical students to determine their current level of physical activity and confidence in counseling patients about physical activity.

The researchers compared their personal level of physical activity with the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines of the US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) and administered a survey in 2009 and 2010 that used the short form of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire.

Results

A total of 1,949 individuals responded to the survey, of whom 1,751 (i.e., 566 attending physicians, 138 fellow physicians, 806 resident physicians, and 215 medical students) were included in this analysis. After adjusting for their BMI, the odds that physicians and medical students who met USDHHS guidelines for vigorous activity would express confidence in their ability to provide exercise counseling were more than twice that of physicians who did not meet these guidelines. Individuals who were overweight were less likely to be confident than those with normal BMI, after adjusting for whether they met the vigorous exercise guidelines. Physicians with obesity were even less likely to express confidence in regards to exercise counseling.

Conclusions

The researchers conclude that physicians and medical students who had a normal BMI and met vigorous USDHHS guidelines were more likely to feel confident about counseling their patients about physical activity. These findings suggest that graduate medical school education should focus on health promotion in their students, as this will likely lead to improved health behaviours in their students’ patient populations.

Reference

Stanford, F.C., Durkin, M.W., Stallworth, J.R., Powell, C.K., Poston, M.B. & Blair, S.N. (2014) Factors that Influence Physicians’ and Medical Students’ Confidence in Counseling Patients about Physical Activity. The Journal of Primary Prevention. 35(3), pp.193-201.

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