Enhancing Physical Activity Through Health Care Providers: Exercise is Medicine®

Health care providers can help their patients incorporate regular physical activity into their lifestyles and make decisions regarding their overall health with handouts available from Exercise is Medicine and the American College of Sports Medicine.1

Exercise, labeled physical activity as patients are often more receptive to that term, can be taught about and encouraged at office visits. The Miracle Drug: Exercise is Medicine® (PDF) is a quick guide on how to incorporate physical activity into practice. Accompanying this quick guide is the Health Care Providers’ Action Guide, a longer how-to, implementation guide for health care providers. The materials provide simple and effective tools for health care providers and preventive cardiovascular nurses to prescribe physical activity in the right “dosage” with confidence. Rx for Health series handouts (also available in Spanish) will work with patients who are at varying levels of readiness to change. For example, Sit Less. Move More is a handout for patients who want to get moving after being sedentary.4 

Using the brief handout, health care providers can concentrate a few minutes in giving a prescription and a strong message about the benefits of physical activity. 

The Action Guide emphasizes3 

  1. Assessment of the patient’s current physical activity levels, 
  2. Development and use of exercise prescriptions based on the patient’s health status and current activity level, and 
  3. Referral to an appropriate and accessible program, place, or certified exercise professional. 

The Action Guide3 includes tips on how to discuss physical activity with patients. Safety screening tools and instructions are included. It emphasizes physical activity as a vital sign, and a short Physical Activity Vital Sign questionnaire allows the health care provider to determine if a patient is currently meeting physical activity guidelines. Finally, the Guide discusses how each member of the clinical team efficiently can play a role and develop a network of trusted PA resources and exercise professionals. 

A more in-depth resource for prescribing physical activity is the ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness & Health – 2nd Edition.1 Keeping this ACSM-reviewed text at the office serves as a resource for providers. Promotional flyers1 about physical activity are colorful and available for printing and posting at provider offices. 

Robyn Stuhr, Vice President of Exercise is Medicine,® headed the team to create these revisions with graphics. When asked about the impact of her team’s work on reducing sedentariness and enhancing health through physical activity, she said, “We’ve had a tremendous response to these materials. The EIM Health Care Provider Action Guide and Rx for Health series patient handouts are the top downloaded resources from our website. Health systems have begun uploading the patient handouts into the electronic health record so they can easily be included in the after-visit summary.  These are meant to be part of a comprehensive approach to promoting physical activity in the clinical setting and reinforce the message that regular physical activity helps all of us (including providers) to “feel better, sleep better and move better.”

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