Background A third of the world's population does not engage in recommended levels of physical activity (PA), leading to substantial health and economic burdens. The healthcare sector offers a variety of resources that can help counsel, refer and deliver PA promotion programmes for purposes of primordial, primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Substantial evidence already exists in support of multipronged PA counselling, prescription and referral strategies, in particular those linking healthcare and community-based resources.
Methods The Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative was introduced in 2007 to advance the implementation of evidence-based strategies to elevate the status of PA in healthcare. In this article, we describe the evolution and global expansion of the EIM initiative, its components, their implementation, an evaluation framework and future initiative activities.
Results Until now, EIM has a presence in 39 countries with EIM Regional Centers established in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, China and Australasia. The EIM Global Health Initiative is transitioning from its initial phase of infrastructure and awareness building to a phase of programme implementation, with an emphasis in low-to-middle income countries, where 80% of deaths due to non-communicable diseases already occur, but where a large gap in research and implementation of PA strategies exists.
Conclusions Broad implementation of PA counselling and referral systems, as clinical practice standard of care, has the potential to improve PA at the population level by complementing and leveraging other efforts and to contribute to achieving global targets for the reduction of inactivity and related morbidity and mortality.
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