Promotion of physical activity in primary care: knowledge and practice of general practitioners and physiotherapists


Being physically active has many proven health benefits and promoting physical activity to patients in primary care is an important component of public health programmes.

This study examined the knowledge and practices of general practitioners and physiotherapists in the promotion of physical activity in primary care.

Subject and Methods:

A cross-sectional population survey was conducted in Ireland to establish participants’ knowledge of physical activity guidelines and current practice in the promotion of physical activity. A total of 342 general practitioners (response rate 65 %; n0543) and 89 physiotherapists (response rate 88 %; n0101) responded to the survey.


More physiotherapists (50.5 %; n045) than general practitioners (28 %; n097) correctly reported the minimal physical activity guidelines (X2016.56, p<.005, df01).  General practitioners reported screening physical activity opportunistically (41 %; n0139) and when related to a patient’s presenting complaint (37 %; n0126). Physiotherapists reported screening physical activity routinely (34 %; n030) and when related to the presenting complaint (28 %; n025).  With the exception of overweight patients, general practitioners were more likely than physiotherapists to promote physical activity to patients with known cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension (X2049.65, p<.001, df02) and hypercholesterolemia (X2032.58, p<.001, df02). Physiotherapists, however, were more likely to promote physical activity to healthy populations (X209.91; p<.01, df02).  Education and advice was the intervention most frequently used (general practitioners 76 %; n0258, physiotherapists 97 %; n086).


Despite high levels of awareness of physical activity promotion amongst general practitioners and physiotherapists, there is scope to improve physical activity promotion particularly to healthy populations and ongoing challenges to incorporate evidence based interventions into routine care.