A recent study found that only 34 percent of adults were counseled about physical activity during their last primary care visit.

Has your doctor ever given you a prescription for exercise?

Dr. JoAnn Manson, Chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recently co-authored an article that calls for physicians and other health care professionals to make exercise counseling a consistent component of their interactions with patients. Failure to do so, explains Dr. Manson, is a lost opportunity to safely and inexpensively improve the health of patients.

“There is a consensus within the medical and public health communities that increasing physical activity among our patients should be a priority,” says Dr. Manson. “No other single intervention or treatment is associated with such a diverse array of benefits.”

Among those benefits is reducing the risk for major chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline, certain cancers, and depression.

A recent study, however, found that only 34 percent of adults were counseled about physical activity during their last primary care visit. Among adults with vascular risk factors, about 40 percent received such counseling. Dr. Manson and her co-authors suggest that this lack of guidance may be due to time constraints, a lack of useful tools, or skepticism about the impact of exercise counseling.

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