General Practitioners (GPs) mainly give their patients advice to engage in physical activity when exercise can reduce health complaints. Youth doctors and youth nurses more often refer people to physical activities. This concludes RIVM in a new study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). 

RIVM has investigated whether and why general practitioners, practice assistants, youth doctors and youth nurses advise people to exercise more or refer them to physical activity programmes. Youth doctors often recommend physical activity, especially in overweight children. GPs do this to a lesser extent and mainly promote physical activity in case the patients visit the GP because of a physical activity-related complaint. This is in line with the core tasks of the General Practitioner.

Lack of motivation

During interviews, health care professionals indicated that the main reasons why they do not advise to increase levels of physical activity are a perceived limited motivation in patients, the financial situation of the patient, lack of time during the consultation, and the presence of larger or more important health problems. These results were also confirmed in a survey among a total of 100 health care providers from General Practices and youth health care.

Ways of referral

GPs and youth doctors can refer people to physical activity in various ways. This can involve physical activity without supervision, such as walking or running, or regular exercises, such as gym, a physiotherapist, or physical activities organised by the GP practice, such as walking with patients. A "physical activity agent" can also be called in, who helps to find a suitable activity or a referral to a "combined lifestyle intervention" including the promotion of a healthy diet in addition to physical activity.

On 13 May, a meeting will be held for (care) professionals who want to stimulate exercise, organised at the request of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Directorate of Sports). 

European Public Health Week

As it is European Public Health Week, RIVM joins the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) to celebrate healthy populations and raise awareness for public health. Today especially on the topic of physical activity.