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Fit Doctors More Likely to Prescribe Exercise: Study

FRIDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- Medical students who are physically fit are more likely to encourage their future patients to exercise, according to a new study.

Researchers found that medical students who had normal cholesterol levels and who met the current U.S. physical activity guidelines often felt strongly that being active themselves would set a better example for the people they were treating.

In analyzing certain markers of physical health -- such as cardiorespiratory fitness -- and attitudes on physical-activity counseling in 577 medical students over the course of five years, the investigators found that 80 percent of students believed physical-activity counseling would be highly relevant in their future clinical practice.

The study authors, led by Dr. Felipe Lobelo, health scientist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out that the students who said exercise counseling was important were in good shape themselves. In fact, they were 1.7 times more likely to exhibit healthy levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and 3.2 times more likely to have normal triglyceride (blood fat) levels than students who didn't believe exercise was as important.

"I'm a strong believer in doctors practicing what they preach, and I think this study illustrates the concept perfectly because it's based on doctors' objective markers of health," Lobelo said in a news release from the American College of Sports Medicine.

"Previous evidence indicates that nearly two-thirds of patients would be more willing to become physically active if their doctors advise it, and these patients find an active, healthy doctor's advice more credible and motivating. It is critical for current and future doctors to understand the public health importance of providing physical activity counseling to every patient," Lobelo concluded.

The findings were scheduled for presentation this week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, held in conjunction with the World Congress on Exercise Is Medicine, in Denver. Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on the link between exercise and health.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine, news release, June 2, 2011

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