Predictors of physical activity promotion in clinical practice: a cross-sectional study among medical doctors

Catarina Santos Silva, Romeu Mendes, Cristina Godinho, Ana Monteiro-Pereira, Jaime Pimenta-Ribeiro, Helena Silva Martins, João Brito, José Luís Themudo-Barata, Carlos Fontes-Ribeiro, Pedro J. Teixeira, Graça Freitas, Marlene Nunes Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Physical activity is a major determinant of physical and mental health. International recommendations identify health professionals as pivotal agents to tackle physical inactivity. This study sought to characterize medi‑ cal doctors’ clinical practices concerning the promotion of patients’ physical activity, while also exploring potential predictors of the frequency and content of these practices, including doctors’ physical activity level and sedentary behaviours. Methods: A cross‑sectional study assessed physical activity promotion in clinical practice with a self‑report question‑ naire delivered through the national medical prescription software (naturalistic survey). Physical activity and sedentary behaviours were estimated using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (short form). Indicators of medical doctors’ attitudes, knowledge, confidence, barriers, and previous training concerning physical activity promotion tar‑ geting their patients were also assessed. Multiple regression analysis was performed to identify predictors of physical activity promotion frequency by medical doctors, including sociodemographic, attitudes and knowledge‑related variables, and physical activity behaviours as independent variables. Results: A total of 961 medical doctors working in the Portuguese National Health System participated (59% women, mean age 44 ± 13 years) in the study. The majority of the participants (84.6%) reported to frequently promote patients’ physical activity. Five predictors of physical activity promotion frequency emerged from the multiple regression analy‑ sis, explaining 17.4% of the dependent variable (p < 0.001): working in primary healthcare settings (p = 0.037), having a medical specialty (p = 0.030), attributing a high degree of relevance to patients’ physical activity promotion in health‑ care settings (p < 0.001), being approached by patients to address physical activity (p < 0.001), and having higher levels of physical activity (p = 0.001). Conclusions: The sample of medical doctors approached reported a high level of engagement with physical activity promotion. Physical activity promotion frequency seems to be influenced by the clinical practice setting, medical career position and specialty, attitudes towards physical activity, and perception of patients ́ interest on the topic, as well as medical doctors’ own physical activity levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number624
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2022


  • Attitudes
  • Barriers
  • Confidence
  • Knowledge
  • Medical doctors
  • Opportunities
  • Physical activity behaviours
  • Physical activity promotion
  • Predictors
  • Training


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