Factors Influencing Primary Health Care Professionals’ Physical Activity Promotion Behaviors: A Systematic Review



Despite the promising findings related to the efficacy of interventions aimed at promoting physical activity (PA) in primary health care (PHC), the translation of these interventions to PHC practice does not always happen as desired.


To help understand why efficacious PHC-based PA interventions are not effectively translated to practice, this study systematically reviewed the literature on factors influencing PHC professionals’ PA promotion practices.


Literature searches were conducted in Web of Science, PubMed, and PsycINFO for peer-reviewed articles published in English from 1990 onwards. Studies were included that met the following criteria: (1) involving PHC-based PA interventions, and (2) reporting factors influencing PHC professionals’ PA promotion behaviors. Two researchers independently screened studies and extracted data. A narrative synthesis using thematic analysis was conducted to identify factors.


Of the 4,469 identified articles, 59 were included in the review. Factors were identified by qualitative methods, barrier/facilitator ratings, and the examination of the relationship between factors and PA promotion, and the effectiveness of introduction strategies. Many factors related to the development, delivery, and effects of the innovation, the sociopolitical and organizational culture, resources, and support, patient and PHC professional characteristics, and innovation strategies were identified as potential influences on PHC professionals’ PA promotion practices. However, the lack of evidence on the relationship between factors and PA promotion indicated insufficient evidence on PA promotion determinants.


This extensive overview of potential factors can inform intervention developers and implementers on which factors may play a role when introducing PA interventions in PHC. Future research should further investigate relationships between factors and PA promotion, which should be guided by qualitative in-depth knowledge on influencing factors.

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The authors wish to acknowledge Theo Paulussen and Annette Martens for their involvement in the conception and design of the study. This research was funded by ZonMw, The Netherlands Organisation of Health Research and Development.

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Huijg, J.M., Gebhardt, W.A., Verheijden, M.W. et al. Factors Influencing Primary Health Care Professionals’ Physical Activity Promotion Behaviors: A Systematic Review. Int.J. Behav. Med. 22, 32–50 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12529-014-9398-2

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  • Physical activity
  • Interventions
  • Primary health care
  • Introduction
  • Influencing factors
  • Systematic literature review