Background Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic disease. Primary health care practitioners are well placed to promote a physically active lifestyle. The perceptions and practice of physical therapists on their role in physical activity promotion are not well known.
Objective The objective of this study was to determine the knowledge, confidence, role perception, barriers, feasibility, and counseling practice of physical therapists and physical therapist students regarding the promotion of nontreatment physical activity for better health.
Design A cross-sectional survey was conducted.
Methods In 2008, 321 (54%) of a random sample of all physical therapists registered in New South Wales, Australia, responded to a survey on their knowledge, confidence, role perception, barriers, feasibility, and counseling practice with regard to promoting a physically active lifestyles to their patients. Physical therapist students (n=279) completed the same survey but without the questions on barriers and counseling practice.
Results Physical therapists and physical therapist students consider that it is part of their role to give their patients nontreatment physical activity advice. Overall, they reported having adequate knowledge and skills to undertake this role. Incorporating advice into normal consultations is deemed the most feasible form of lifestyle physical activity promotion in physical therapist practice.
Limitations The cross-sectional nature of this study makes it difficult to determine cause and effect relationships. Some selection bias may have occurred, as the physical therapists who completed the questionnaires may have been those most interested in physical activity promotion.
Conclusions Physical therapist practice appears to be an excellent avenue for promoting a physically active lifestyle and could potentially play an important public health role.
All authors provided concept/idea/research design, writing, and consultation (including review of manuscript before submission). Dr Shirley and Dr van der Ploeg provided data collection and analysis. Dr van der Ploeg and Dr Bauman provided project management. Dr Shirley provided participants. Dr Bauman provided facilities/equipment and institutional liaisons. The authors thank the Australian Physiotherapy Association for help with the distribution of the study survey questionnaires.
The study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Sydney.
The project was financed through an Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council program grant (#301200) held by Dr Bauman.
- Received November 16, 2009.
- Accepted May 15, 2010.
- © 2010 American Physical Therapy Association