Encouraging Physical Activity Pays Off
The benefits of physical activity have long been known to have a positive impact on health, including improving quality of life and reducing the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and depression.
Patients who have been counseled on physical activity by general practice physicians have shown an increase in levels of physical fitness and activity; however, no health benefits have been associated with the activity.
This study sought to determine whether physical activity could improve a patient's quality of life over 12 months without evidence of adverse side-effects. Researchers studied 800 patients (of 40 New Zealand and United Kingdom general practice physicians in rural and urban areas) between the ages of 40-79, who showed evidence of sedentary lifestyles. Patients in the study received the "green prescription," an intervention program in which physicians counseled patients on developing physical fitness goals, combined with support from a local sports foundation that encouraged patients via phone calls and quarterly newsletters.
The study determined the green prescription intervention in general practice is effective in increasing patients' physical activity and improving quality of life without adverse side-effects. Patients in the intervention group increased their leisure exercise an average of 34 minutes per week - significantly more than the control group. In addition, patients in the intervention program self-rated their general health, vitality and bodily pain significantly better than patients in the control group. A trend toward decreasing blood pressure was found; however, no significant changes in the risk of coronary heart disease were noted.
Note: This study, and the previous one, demonstrate that in sedentary individuals, exercise can be positively encouraged and lead to beneficial effects on weight loss and quality of life. This information should be helpful in counseling patients on weight loss; it seems that as long as they are exercising and modifying their diets, benefits should be noted.
Elley CR, Kerse N, Arroll B, Robinson E. Effectiveness of counselling patients on physical activity in general practice: cluster randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal
, April 12, 2003:326, pp793.