Exercise Strategies for Prevention From Exercise is Medicine®

Is exercise medicine? Founders of an organization called Exercise is Medicine® think so. This movement has been called a solution to the greatest public health problem of the 21st century, a problem now referred to as the “inactivity epidemic.”1 Exercise is Medicine® began as a US-based initiative in 2007, a collaboration between the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association, which since has become a global effort coordinated by ACSM. There are 43 national centers and 7 regional centers worldwide.1

In addition to the problem of inactivity in patients, Exercise is Medicine® focuses on the low physical activity in health care providers and the need for providers to counsel patients at office visits. Exercise is Medicine® reports that 40% of US primary care doctors did not meet federal physical activity guidelines. 2 Also physically inactive doctors are less likely to provide exercise counseling to patients, and only 34% of US adults report having received exercise counseling at their last medical visit.2 A study on nurses showed that more than half (59%) of nurse practitioners exercise regularly.3 Findings about nurses counseling patients vary from 95% of advanced practice nurses counseling patients on physical activity at least once a year4 to 48% of nurse practitioners in a given week counseling more than 50% of their patients to exercise.3 A recent meta-analysis showed that workplace interventions, targeted at nurses to improve their own physical activity, can be effective.5 Quantitative and qualitative research is warranted about exercise as medicine as a prevention strategy in health care providers including nurses.

How does Exercise is Medicine® facilitate prevention?
Exercise is Medicine® is committed to the idea that exercise and physical activity are integral to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Their guiding principles are that health care providers:

  • Assess every patient’s level of physical activity at every clinic visit,
  • Determine if the patient is meeting the U.S. National Physical Activity Guidelines, and
  • Give each patient brief counseling to help him/her meet the guidelines and/or refer the patient to either health care or community-based resources for further physical activity counseling.1,2

How can Exercise is Medicine®’s critical call to action help prevention?
Exercise is Medicine® calls on each person and all partners to build, support, and advocate for physical activity by committing to action.2 Their emphasis is on calling on policymakers nationally and internationally to change policy to support physical activity as a vital sign for health.2 This action counts on health care providers to integrate exercise into patient interactions. Exercise is Medicine® is about workplaces, communities, and schools promoting physical activity as an essential part of health.2,6 

How can nurses get involved?
Nurses can visit Exercise is Medicine® to support the initiative, receive program updates, and download an Action and Promotion Guide. Another option is to visit the Exercise is Medicine Month website for tools, tips, and ideas to plan a local event during Exercise is Medicine® Month in May or throughout the year.  


  1. Exercise is Medicine. (2018). United States.  Retrieved March 14, 2018 from   http://www. exerciseismedicine.org
  2. Exercise is Medicine. (2018). Fact sheet. Retrieved March 14, 2018 from http://www. exerciseismedicine.org/ assets/page_documents/EIMFactSheet_2014.pdf
  3. Tompkins, T. H., Belza,  B., Brown, M. A. (2009). Nurse practitioner practice patterns for exercise counseling. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. 79-86. 
  4. Buchholz, S. W., & Purath, J. (2007). Physical activity and physical fitness counseling patterns of adult nurse practitioners. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 19(2), 86-92.
  5. Priano, S. M., Hong, O. S., & Chen, J. (2018). Lifestyles and health-related outcomes of U.S. hospital nurses: A systematic review. Nursing Outlook, 66(1), 66-76. 
  6. Exercise is Medicine. (2018). EIM in action: Schools and worksites. Retrieved March 14, 2018 from http://www. exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/eim-in-the-community

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