Should doctors prescribe physical activity ?

An Intervention to Increase Exercise Habits and Healthy Eating

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About a quarter of men and a third of women in the United Kingdom describe themselves as physically inactive. The UK medical royal colleges and others have called for healthcare professionals to help tackle the problem, urging primary care professionals to lead the fight and to “question patients about their physical activity and exercise habits at every meeting.”

2017 Study Abstract

A healthy lifestyle is associated with improved quality of life among cancer survivors, yet adherence to health behavior recommendations is low.

This pilot trial developed and tested the feasibility of a tailored eHealth program to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity among older, long-term cancer survivors.

American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines for cancer survivors were translated into an interactive, tailored health behavior program on the basis of Social Cognitive Theory. Patients (N=86) with a history of breast (n=83) or prostate cancer (n=3) and less than 5 years from active treatment were randomized 1:1 to receive either provider advice, brief counseling, and the eHealth program (intervention) or advice and counseling alone (control). Primary outcomes were self-reported fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity.

About half (52.7%, 86/163) of the eligible patients consented to participate. The most common refusal reasons were lack of perceived time for the study (32/163) and lack of interest in changing health behaviors (29/163). Furthermore, 72% (23/32) of the intervention group reported using the program and most would recommend it to others (56%, 14/25). Qualitative results indicated that the intervention was highly acceptable for survivors. For behavioral outcomes, the intervention group reported increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Self-reported physical activity declined in both groups.

The brief intervention showed promising results for increasing fruit and vegetable intake. Results and participant feedback suggest that providing the intervention in a mobile format with greater frequency of contact and more indepth information would strengthen treatment effects.

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