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Physical activity counselling in Ireland: a survey of doctors’ knowledge, attitudes and self-reported practice
  1. Sarah O'Brien1,
  2. Lucia Prihodova2,
  3. Mairéad Heffron2,
  4. Peter Wright1
  1. 1Department of Public Health HSE-West [Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim], Bridgewater House, Sligo, Ireland
  2. 2Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah O'Brien; sarahob17{at}


Objective Physical activity (PA) counselling has been shown to raise awareness of the importance of PA and to increase the rate of PA engagement among patients. While much attention has been paid to examining the knowledge, attitudes and practice of general practitioners in relation to PA counselling, there is less literature examining such issues in hospital-based doctors in Ireland and further afield. This study aimed to explore doctors’ PA counselling practices and to analyse how this related to their level of PA knowledge, training and attitudes.

Methods An invitation to participate in an online survey was sent to 4692 members of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland who were listed as having an address in Ireland. Descriptive and explorative analyses of the data were performed using IBM SPSS V.22.0.

Results A total of 595 valid responses were included (response rate 12.7%; 42.7% male, 42.6±12.1 years). The majority reported enquiring about PA levels (88.0%) and providing PA counselling (86.4%) in at least some of their patients. Doctors who saw it as their role and those who felt more effective/confident in providing PA counselling were significantly more likely to do so. A perceived lack of patient interest in PA and patient preference for pharmaceutical intervention were significant barriers to undertaking PA counselling.

Conclusion This study demonstrates the need for further education and training in PA counselling in Ireland with a particular focus on improving the attitudes and self-efficacy of doctors in this area at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

  • physical activity
  • health promotion
  • education

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the conceptualisation, design and conduction of the study. SOB and LP cleaned, analysed and interpreted the data. All authors were involved in the drafting and revision of the manuscript for intellectual content, and all approved the final version of the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.

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