Encouraging patients to become more physically active: The physician's role

Ross E. Andersen, Steven N. Blair, Lawrence J Cheskin, Susan J. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A sedentary lifestyle is recognized as a risk factor for poor health. Only 22% of adults in the United States are currently active enough to derive health benefits from their activity. Inactive persons who improve their physical fitness are less likely to die of all causes and of cardiovascular disease than are those who remain sedentary. Many physicians do not feel adequately prepared to prescribe exercise to their patients. An active lifestyle does not require patients to follow a formal, uninterrupted, vigorous exercise program. Recent recommendations about physical activity have been simplified to encourage activity for the promotion of health and the prevention of disease. Physicians are advised to routinely counsel sedentary patients to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity- equivalent to walking at 3 to 4 mph for most healthy adults-on most, preferably all, days of the week. The most sedentary patients should be encouraged to simply begin doing something and to make gradual changes over time. With continued support and encouragement from their physicians and families, these persons may progress to higher levels of activity that will further reduce their risk for disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-400
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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