Are we adequately preparing the next generation of physicians to prescribe exercise as prevention and treatment? Residents express the desire for more training in exercise prescription

Kara Solmundson, Michael Koehle, Don McKenzie


Background: Physical activity (PA) is a key intervention for chronic disease, yet few physicians provide exercise prescription (EP). EP is an important component in larger strategies of reducing non-communicable disease (NCD). Our objective was to assess Family Medicine Residents (FMR) knowledge, competence, and perspectives of EP to help inform future curriculum development.

Methods: A 49-item cross-sectional survey was administered to 396 University of British Columbia FMR. Residents’ EP knowledge, competence, attitudes/beliefs, current practices, personal physical activity levels, and perspectives of training were assessed using, primarily, a 7-point Likert scale.

Results: The response rate was 80.6% (319/396). After eliminating 25 that failed to meet the inclusion criteria, 294 were included in the final analysis. The majority 95.6% of FMR reported EP as important in their future practice, despite having low knowledge of the Canadian PA Guidelines (mean score 1.77/4), low self-reported competence prescribing exercise as prevention (mean score 13.35/21), and rating themselves “somewhat incompetent” prescribing exercise to patients with chronic disease (mean score 11.26/21). FMR believe PA is integral to their patients’ health (98.0%), sedentary behaviour is harmful (97.9%), and feel a responsibility to discuss PA with patients (99.7%). Few FMR (14.9%) perceived their training in EP as adequate and 91.0% desire more.

Conclusions: FMR report EP is important, yet do not perceive they are sufficiently prepared to provide EP. In future curricular development, medical educators should consider residents’ low knowledge, competence, perceived program support, and their expressed desire for more training in exercise prescription.


Exercise prescription; residency; medical education; family medicine; physical activity counselling

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CMEJ ~ Canadian Medical Education Journal
Jennifer O'Brien PhD, Managing Editor, University of Saskatchewan; E-mail:

ISSN 1923-1202