Older Adult Perceptions of the Physicians’ Role in Promoting Physical Activity

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Purpose: The purpose of this research was to explore the perceptions of independent living older adults regarding their physicians' role in promoting physical activity (PA).

Methods: A qualitative inductive analysis was undertaken using focus group discussions of independent living adults over age 60. Thirty-one participants were placed into focus groups based on their current level of PA (three focus groups of physically active persons, and three focus groups of physically inactive persons). Discussions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative data were open and axially coded and independently analysed by two researchers for emergent themes. Inter-rater reliability was established (κ = 0.89).

Results: Themes for physically active and physically inactive groups included limited or inadequate discussions with their physician regarding PA, and the use of PA as a secondary prevention method. The physician as an extrinsic motivator of PA emerged only in the physically active group discussions. Some participants believed that their physician was uncomfortable discussing PA or that their physician was unable to provide them with sufficient PA guidelines. When PA counseling occurred, it was usually in relation to a preexisting illness.

Discussion and conclusion: Although participants were looking to their physician for PA counseling, physicians were not initiating a regular PA dialogue. Possible reasons may include lack of physician knowledge or skill. Further research is needed to explore physicians' knowledge and comfort when prescribing exercise or PA for their patients.

Original Citation

Costello, E., Leone, J.E., Ellzy, M., Miller, T.A. (2013). Older Adult Perceptions of the Physicians’ Role in Promoting Physical Activity. Disability & Rehabilitation. 35(14), 1191-1198. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638288.2012.726314