Background Physical therapists have been encouraged to engage in health promotion practice. Health professionals who engage in healthy behaviors themselves are more apt to recommend those behaviors, and patients are more motivated to change their behaviors when their health care provider is a credible role model.
Objective. The purpose of this study was to describe the health behaviors and role-modeling attitudes of physical therapists and physical therapist students.
Design. This study was a descriptive cross-sectional survey.
Methods. A national sample of 405 physical therapists and 329 physical therapist students participated in the survey. Participants' attitudes toward role modeling and behaviors related to physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, abstention from smoking, and maintenance of a healthy weight were measured. Wilcoxon rank sum tests were used to examine differences in attitudes and behaviors between physical therapists and physical therapist students.
Results. A majority of the participants reported that they engage in regular physical activity (80.8%), eat fruits and vegetables (60.3%), do not smoke (99.4%), and maintain a healthy weight (78.7%). Although there were no differences in behaviors, physical therapist students were more likely to believe that role modeling is a powerful teaching tool, physical therapist professionals should “practice what they preach,” physical activity is a desirable behavior, and physical therapist professionals should be role models for nonsmoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
Limitations. Limitations of this study include the potential for response bias and social desirability bias.
Conclusions. Physical therapists and physical therapist students engage in health-promoting behaviors at similarly high rates but differ in role-modeling attitudes.
- Received February 5, 2012.
- Accepted July 11, 2012.
- © 2012 American Physical Therapy Association