Physical activity promotion in the physical therapy setting: Perspectives from practitioners and students

Debra Shirley, Hidde P. Van Der Ploeg, Adrian E. Bauman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic disease. Primary health care practitioners are well placed to promote a physically active lifestyle. The perceptions and practice of physical therapists on their role in physical activity promotion are not well known. Objective. The objective of this study was to determine the knowledge, confidence, role perception, barriers, feasibility, and counseling practice of physical therapists and physical therapist students regarding the promotion of nontreatment physical activity for better health. Design. A cross-sectional survey was conducted. Methods. In 2008, 321 (54%) of a random sample of all physical therapists registered in New South Wales, Australia, responded to a survey on their knowledge, confidence, role perception, barriers, feasibility, and counseling practice with regard to promoting a physically active lifestyles to their patients. Physical therapist students (n=279) completed the same survey but without the questions on barriers and counseling practice. Results. Physical therapists and physical therapist students consider that it is part of their role to give their patients nontreatment physical activity advice. Overall, they reported having adequate knowledge and skills to undertake this role. Incorporating advice into normal consultations is deemed the most feasible form of lifestyle physical activity promotion in physical therapist practice. Limitations. The cross-sectional nature of this study makes it difficult to determine cause and effect relationships. Some selection bias may have occurred, as the physical therapists who completed the questionnaires may have been those most interested in physical activity promotion. Conclusions. Physical therapist practice appears to be an excellent avenue for promoting a physically active lifestyle and could potentially play an important public health role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1322
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010

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