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Major limitations in knowledge of physical activity guidelines among UK medical students revealed: implications for the undergraduate medical curriculum


Background Education of health professionals is a key element of the wider strategy to increase society's physical activity levels. To date, no study has directly assessed UK medical students’ knowledge of physical activity guidelines or their ability/willingness to prescribe exercise.

Methods A questionnaire survey of final year medical students in Scottish Universities was conducted prior to a presentation on the current UK guidelines.

Results Completed questionnaires (n=177) represented 37% of the final year cohorts. Physical inactivity was incorrectly perceived to be the least important risk factor to global mortality. 40% stated they were aware of current guidelines, but in a forced choice, 68% were able to correctly identify them for adults. In comparison, 97% correctly identified the UK's alcohol guidelines. 52% stated they felt adequately trained to give physical activity advice to the general public.

Conclusions The medical students in this study underestimated the risk of physical inactivity, and did not know the physical activity guidelines as well as other health promotion guidelines. A large proportion remained unconfident about giving physical activity advice. Improved education of this group is required.

  • Health promotion through physical activity
  • Physical activity promotion in primary care

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