Profiling the University of British Columbia Doctor of Medicine undergraduate students’ physical activity knowledge, attitudes, and health behaviours

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Exercise is medicine
Medical education
Physical activity

The growing Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative recommends that physicians assess and prescribe physical activity as part of their patient care to tackle the physical inactivity public health crisis (Sallis, 2009). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether University of British Columbia (UBC) Doctor of Medicine (MD) students have the physical activity related knowledge, attitudes, and health behaviours to include physical activity when prescribing treatment plans for their patients and whether the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours differ between years of the medical program. In a cross-sectional design, an online survey was administered to profile the UBC MD student population and investigate variables addressing the research questions. Statistics were used to examine frequency distributions, measures of central tendency, and any significant (P < 0.05) differences between years of the medical program. The response rate was 18.9% (217/1150). Mean age (SD) of participants was 25.5 (3.9) years and the majority were female (60.7%), white (58.1%), single (72.9%), first year (41.6%), and from Vancouver Fraser (61.1%). The main findings were: 90.3% were aware of the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults, but their understanding was poor; 78.8% recalled seven hours or less time spent discussing physical activity, and 74.4% would like to see more time dedicated to learning how to talk to their patients about physical activity; 98.0% strongly agreed or agreed that physical activity counselling is important, only 57.0% felt they have sufficient knowledge, and only 36.6% felt confident in suggesting specific physical activity programs; 96.0% felt medical schools should encourage healthy lifestyles, but only 49.0% felt they do; 89.8% reported their health as excellent or good, but 29.5% identified as having mental health concerns; 76.8% were meeting Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, and the mean (SD) Godin Leisure Time Exercise Score was 55.6 (25.4) which is a classification of Active. Participants were receptive to an EIM approach to increase physical activity levels and health outcomes of the population. Given the lack of necessary knowledge, training, and confidence to support EIM in clinical practice, recommendations for medical education, policy, and practice are provided to better equip medical students to positively impact global health.

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Scott Lear
Education: Faculty of Education
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ed.D.