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Prescribing Exercise in Clinical Practice


There is solid evidence that physical activity is essential to improve health as well as quality of life, and there is an urgent need to find effective strategies to implement this knowledge into health care delivery as well as to develop more effective strategies for the promotion of physical activity. A systematic literature review of methods of promoting physical activity from randomized controlled studies with at least 6 months follow-up published 2007 showed that advice or counseling on physical activity given by health care professionals (15 studies) leads to an increase in physical activity of 12% to 50%. Studies on theory-based behavioral interventions (21 studies) demonstrated a 10% to 15% increase in physical activity compared to usual care. More recent studies performed within the health care system indicate that “physical activity on prescription” can be a feasible and effective way to increase patients’ physical activity levels. There is a great and urgent need to spread this new evidence-based knowledge as well as experiences and pedagogic skills to counteract the epidemic of a sedentary lifestyle. However, there are still major gaps in our knowledge about long-term effectiveness of various methods of promoting physical activity and about how to implement current knowledge into clinical practice. A focus on translational research and studies on implementation is needed.

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Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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The author is grateful for the assistance of Jonas Lindblom at the Swedish Council on Technology Assessment in Health Care with literature search and of Karin Björklund-Jonsson, Annika Larsson and Viktor Grahn with the manuscript.


Mai-Lis Hellénius’ institution has received research grants from the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, the Stockholm County Council, the Swedish National Institute of Public Health, the Tornspiran Foundation, the Karolinska Institute Foundation, the Swedish National Center for Research in Sports, and the Capio Foundation.

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Hellénius, ML. Prescribing Exercise in Clinical Practice. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep 5, 331 (2011).

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  • Physical activity
  • Exercise
  • Promotion
  • Prescription
  • Health care