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Doctors Only Advise 1 in 3 People to Exercise

Feb 16, 2012

Only one in three people in the US say their doctor advised them to start exercising or continue doing so during an office visit over the course of a year.

The trips to the doctors were for a wide variety of reasons, from annual exams to a cold or flu.

The doctors were more likely to mention exercise to people who were overweight or had heart disease, cancer or diabetes. Women were more likely than men to get the advice to move more.

Research shows that regular physical activity decreases the risk of a wide range of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer.

Russell Pate, an exercise researcher at the University of South Carolina, says, “Physicians should treat physical activity as a vital sign. I am encouraged that we have made progress over the past decade, but the time has come for the medical community to attach a much higher priority to this critical practice.”

The latest findings are based on interviews with more than 60,000 people as part of the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.

The findings showed that:

  • About 32% of people who saw a physician or other health professional in 2010 were advised to exercise or continue being physically active, up from 23% who got that advice from their physician in 2000.
  • In 2010, 56% of adults with diabetes were advised to exercise; 44% of patients with high blood pressure; 41% with heart disease; 36% with cancer.
  • 47% of those who were obese, that is roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, received a recommendation from their doctor to exercise; 31% of those who were overweight got the advice.
  • In 2010, doctors told 29% of people over 85 to exercise, compared with 15% in 2000.
National Center for Health Statistics, Feb 2012