What do patients really know? An evaluation of patients’ physical activity guideline knowledge within general practice

Background: Physical inactivity is well recognised as one of the leading causes of preventable death. However, little is known about the general public’s knowledge surrounding national physical activity guidelines, particularly within general practice (GP). Setting: Two GPs (York and Maidenhead, UK). Question: Are GP patients aware of the national physical guidelines? Also, are health care professionals routinely raising the issue of physical inactivity and would patients welcome support from health care professionals regarding inactivity? Methodology: A questionnaire was distributed in two GPs over a one-week period to evaluate patients knowledge of the national physical activity guidelines. Results: Ninety-four participants completed the questionnaire over one week (60 female; 34 male), with an average age of 54.2 (standard deviation: 19.9 years). 14% (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 8–22%) of the total participants correctly knew the recommended national guidelines for physical activity. 52% (95% CI: 42–63%) recalled being asked by a health care professional about their activity levels. 46% (95% CI: 35–56%) would welcome support from a health care professional around improving their activity levels. Discussion/Conclusion: Only 14% of responders correctly knew the current national minimum activity guidelines. Encouragingly 46% of participants in our study were interested in physical activity advice from a health care professional. Health care professionals need to be aware that many patients do not know the current physical activity guidelines and recognise that primary care may be an underutilised opportunity to educate and promote physical activity.