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Motivating Patients to Move—What can you do?

Many people look at the new year as a chance to reset their behaviours by making health-oriented resolutions. A quick look at Google Trends shows marked increases in search terms like “get fit” and “lose weight” around January 1. With patients already motivated to get up and get moving, how do you encourage their continued participation in regular physical activity after the excitement of the new year (and its resolutions) has passed?

What can you do to help them stay on both the figurative and literal track? Turns out, it may be as simple as writing a “prescription” to track their activity with a pedometer. In particular, in patients with chronic disease, the most successful interventions to increase physical activity are those that involve specific behavioural strategies and encourage self-monitoring. And using a pedometer fulfills both of these.

Providing patients with a written, goal-oriented exercise program has been previously demonstrated to increase physical activity levels. A sample “prescription” for activity with a pedometer might look like:

  1. Wear your pedometer every day for one week
  2. Calculate your daily steps (feel free to average to the closest 1,000-step increment)
  3. Add 500 steps per day to your daily average; walk that each day for the next week
  4. Repeat Step 3, adding 500 steps to last week’s daily goal and walk that each day for the next week
  5. Continue to your target of 10,000 steps per day

About the Author

Tina Korownyk, MD CCFP
Associate Professor, Family Medicine, University of Alberta
Assistant Director, Evidence and CPD Program, Alberta College of Family Physicians

Tina is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Alberta. She has worked as a Family Physician for the past 12 years, primarily in Edmonton at the Northeast Community Health Centre.

Tina is a founding member of PEER, an evidence based medicine organization that seeks to improve patient care in the community through evidence synthesis and knowledge translation in the context of primary care. She is actively involved in the development of Tools for Practice and Continuing Professional Development programs within Alberta and nationally. She has many research interests, most of which include practical questions relating to the improvement of primary care and is also involved in the Pragmatic Trials Collaborative, which engages community physicians in clinical trials that seek to answer pivotal questions relating to improved patient outcomes.

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