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Realising the potential for an Olympic legacy; teaching medical students about sport and exercise medicine and exercise prescribing


Background Physicians are increasingly being called upon to promote physical activity (PA) among patients. However, a paucity of exercise medicine teaching in the UK undergraduate medical curricula prevents students from acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to do so. To address this issue, King's College London School of Medicine introduced an exercise medicine strand of teaching. This study evaluated the acceptability of exercise promotion behaviour change lectures and explored the knowledge and attitudes of the students who received it.

Methods Students were invited to complete a 6-item online questionnaire prior to and after exercise medicine lectures. The questionnaire assessed beliefs regarding the importance of PA in disease prevention and management, in addition to their confidence in advising patients on PA recommendations. A focus group (n=7) explored students’ attitudes towards and knowledge of PA promotion and exercise prescribing.

Results In total, 121 (15%) first-year and second-year MBBS students completed the questionnaire. Students’ beliefs regarding the importance of PA in managing disease and their confidence in PA promotion among patients increased after the teaching (p<0.001). More students were able to correctly identify the Chief Medical Officer recommended adult PA guidelines (p<0.05). Students were enthusiastic about the exercise medicine teaching, strongly supportive of its continued inclusion in the curriculum and advocated its importance for patients and themselves as future doctors.

Conclusions Behaviour change teaching successfully improved students’ knowledge of and confidence regarding PA promotion. These improvements are a step forward and may increase the rates and success of physician PA counselling in the future.

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

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