If exercise is medicine, why don’t doctors talk to their patients about it?

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  • Stanley Regis says:

    I love this, great read.

  • Shailla Vaidya says:

    Great article to draw attention to this important issue. My colleagues and I have been prescribing exercise since we graduated residency (2002). We have had it in our patient contracts. Most importantly throughout the different places I have worked, my patients have always seen me exercising so when I prescribe it, they know I am also taking my own advise. The best way to lead is by example! Maybe we should not just teach med students/residents to prescribe exercise, but to make it part of the Doctor’s day. It would also help with our high rates of stress and burnout and likely improve job satisfaction.

  • Ginger Quinn says:

    It’s up to all of us to share the health and wellness benefits of exercise. Our Nordic Walkers love bragging to their Doctor’s about the changes getting active has made in their lives!
    Yours in health

  • Ginger Peters says:

    I agree physicians should be talking about exercise more when they are dealing with their patients who have chronic health issues.Let’s not forget the most qualified exercise specialist-the movement specialists,that is Registered physiotherapists!Some are covered by OHIP.Many individuals have extended benefits that they are not using as well.We are not just injury recovery specialists or post surgical rehabilitation professionals.We are exercise specialists who can analyse a person’s body and their needs.Let’s get the doctors referring more to a Registered physiotherapist if the exercise talk comes up.If it doesn’t just know that someone can see a Registered physiotherapist without a referral anytime!
    Ginger Peters Registered Physiotherapist,Owner,Ginger’s Physiotherapy Place, London Ontario

  • Janie says:

    Great thoughts in this article! Perhaps some of your student colleagues might be interested in our Learn To Run Program we offer in partnership with the Hart House! Great read!
    From – The Runner’s Academy

  • Sameer says:

    Great perspective, but there are options out there. One great option would be to find a good Physiotherapist in the community and refer appropriate patients. There are coverage options through Community Physiotherapy Clinics (OHIP-funded), which cover an episode of care for eligible populations (https://www.ontario.ca/page/physiotherapy-clinics-ohip-funded). Those of working age generally have extended health benefits that they can utilize for this purpose. There are also group exercise and falls prevention programs for seniors, covered under OHIP (https://www.ontario.ca/page/exercise-and-falls-prevention-programs).

  • Zach Weston says:

    As a former Kinesiologist and Exercise Physiologist I am thrilled to read your article. As Doc Mike Evans 23.5 hours has cleverly demonstrated, exercise can have tremendous benefit. Exercise Prescription however is more complicated than simply encouraging a patient to go out and walk – in parallel I’m certain Dietitians will agree that simply encouraging people to “eat better” has limited impact. Motivational interviewing techniques and engaging the patient in the plan of action are critical. Coupling that with the specifics of chronic disease or risk thereof with other factors including past activity history, medications, social economic status/supports, and personal life priorities do make this complicated. Ontario regulated the profession of Kinesiologists to recognize their specific expertise in this area – I know there are ample qualified Kinesiologists in the province who would be more than happy to work alongside physicians to support their patients (the challenge of course is funding those RKINs to do this work).

  • Peter Kowalewski says:

    Great article Arjun. I could not agree more with this perspective. Advocacy for exrecise as a form of treatment is exactly what pushed me towards persuing a career in medicing. Best of luck with the rest of your studies.

  • Cassie says:

    Interesting article with some very good points. I can see the importance of physical activities and diets being part of the medical school curriculum as it has a significant impact on health and wellbeings of individuals. One thing I do disagree is “Family doctors in Ontario cannot bill for physical activity counselling – and should be able to.”. The counselling should be part of the package as a whole when counselling on whichever disease states the patient has. Let’s say the patient is obesed, physical activity should definitely be counselled, or if the patient has hypertension and it has been shown that non-pharmacological strategies such as exercise can decrease their blood pressure to reduce the pharmacological burden on the patient. Monetary incentives should not be the motivation for physicians to do what is part of their job and the moral responsibility to provide the best care to their patients. However, I do ageee a better use of that funding may be on coverage of dietitians and personal trainers for patients that require the service and cannot afford.

  • Bernice Weber says:

    Courses in exercise, diet and nutrition should be absolutely mandatory in medical school. These are critical areas that, addressed and implemented by patients, could have a significant and positive impact on their physical and mental health. Excellent article!

  • Michaela Devries-Aboud says:

    Great article Arjun. Having worked clinically within a FHT for 3 years the lack of buy in by physicians that exercise was important to their patients health was very discouraging and one of the factors that drove me back into academia. Glad to see that there is discussion about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating in the medical curriculum now and hope to see that the next generation of doctors are better prepared to address this issue in practice.

  • Calvin Tse says:

    Fantastic perspective and great read!


Arjun Sithamparapillai is a second year medical student at the University of Toronto who works as a personal trainer and has a passion for exercise advocacy and public health.

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