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5 The motivators and barriers to physical activity in primary prevention of chronic disease
  1. A Pavitt
  1. University of Oxford, UK


Background Regular physical activity is protective against many chronic diseases. Despite this, 39% of adults in the UK are insufficiently active with an increased risk of chronic disease. Moving Medicine is an online resource developed by the FSEM to facilitate clinician-led conversations to reduce the risk of chronic disease through increased physical activity.

Aim This is the first review to categorise and understand the principle motivators for and barriers against physical activity, for the primary prevention of chronic disease. It has informed the development of a national Moving Medicine resource.

Methods A structured search of MEDLINE and OpenGrey, augmented by handsearching of reference lists and contents of key journals. Qualitative evidence was then synthesised thematically.

Results Thirteen papers were selected as being of good quality (structured interviews and focus groups rather than questionnaires) and relevant to the aims of this review. Motivators identified were grouped into: anticipated positive effects, support/encouragement, social aspects, environmental aspects, goal-setting, and the use of feedback. Barriers to physical activity were grouped into: time constraints, physical health problems, environmental aspects, cost and poor communication.

Building results into the resource The results of this review were presented to an expert panel of SEM doctors, GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, and patients. This multidisciplinary team then helped shape the primary prevention resource on the Moving Medicine website. See examples from the resource below.

Conclusion Good quality conversations on physical activity in healthcare require an understanding of the key motivators and barriers reported by patients. Combining this qualitative review with the knowledge, skills and the experience of a multidisciplinary expert panel has enabled the development of a unique patient-centred primary prevention resource. Delivering this information through is a vital step in using these important findings to inform routine clinical practice across the NHS. This should facilitate an increase in the proportion of adults meeting recommended physical activity levels and therefore reduce the rates of chronic disease.

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