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26-04-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

GPs promote physical activity in inactive patients


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MedWire News: General practitioners (GPs) can significantly increase the physical activity levels of inactive patients through "physical activity promotion programs," but the effect wears off over time, say researchers.

Writing in the journal PLoS ONE, the team explains that the long-term positive effects of the PEPAF (experimental Program for Physical Activity Promotion) intervention on physical activity levels were only maintained in a subgroup of patients receiving additional personalized physical activity plans.

Gonzalo Grandes (Basque Healthcare Service, Bilbao, Spain) and colleagues explain that physical activity can have significant health benefits, and can prevent chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

The PEPAF project involved 56 GPs who were randomly assigned to provide the PEPAF intervention (n=29) or standard care (n=27) to 4317 and 2069 patients, respectively.

Intervention GPs provided advice to patients on the benefits of physical activity, and a subgroup (30%) of these patients received an additional 15-minute appointment where a personalized physical activity plan was prescribed. Control GPs provided no intervention-related physical activity advice.

None of the participants receiving the PEPAF met the minimum recommended physical activity levels (moderate intensity physical activity for ≥30 minutes 5 days/week, or vigorous intensity activity for ≥20 minutes 3 days/week) at baseline.

But at follow-up assessments at 6, 12, and 24 months after intervention, the team observed more favorable changes in levels of physical activity among the intervention group (n=1906) than among controls (n=1785).

These differences were statistically significant at 6 months, when individuals in the PEPAF group increased their physical activity by 1.72 metabolic equivalent (MET) hours per week and participated in 25 more minutes of moderate or vigorous activities per week, compared with controls.

But at the 12- and 24-month follow-ups, these differences, although still favorable to the intervention group, were lower and nonsignificant.

When the team analyzed the treatment received by participants further, they found that those who had received additional personalized physical activity plans showed significant increases in their physical activity levels at 12 months compared with controls, with a difference of 4.2 MET hours/week.

In addition, a significant 10.17% more individuals receiving personalized activity plans met the physical activity recommendations at 12 months, compared with the controls.

Grandes et al conclude: "GPs can enable inactive patients to increase their levels of physical activity, but without reinforcement strategies the results tend to decline over time."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers