Physical Activity in Health Care

Physical Activity: A Vital Sign for Health

Reducing physical inactivity requires a comprehensive, multisectoral approach including the development of a strong research base, government policies that promote active living, educational efforts at many levels, environmental/urban planning to create the infrastructure for safe, enjoyable and convenient physical activity (PA) and integration within health care.  "Health care providers have contact with the majority of Americans [giving them] a unique opportunity to encourage PA among their patients through PA assessment and brief counseling." (Coleman, K. J. et al., 2012).

The Institute for Health Care Improvement challenges health care systems to achieve the “quadruple aim”: 1) improved health outcomes, 2) cost containment, 3) patient satisfaction and 4) provider satisfaction. Integrated physical activity interventions can contribute to the attainment of these goals.

Central to the desire for increases in the delivery of PA promotion and counseling is the potential cost savings realized by health care systems, payors and employers. However, the value of regular PA far exceeds the monetized benefits alone. Increases in PA behavior affect physical and mental functioning, quality of life and other dimensions of health and wellbeing that may be difficult to calculate since they occur in non-health related areas (i.e., the impact of exercise on income and family earnings, PA impact on mood states, the effect of active transportation on the environment, etc.).

One emerging area of research is to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness and scalability of different clinic-based PA assessment, counseling and/or referral interventions. This relatively new area of research, incorporating the RE-AIM model (reach, effectiveness, adoption, implementation, maintenance), is beginning to show promising outcomes.

EIM has launched an EIM Research Learning Collaborative to advance EIM-related research. EIM’s Global Research and Collaboration Center (GRCC) is also conducting these types of studies. Click to learn more.

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