BACKGROUND: Through the provision of advice and counselling, general practitioners (GPs) play an important part in promoting physical activity (PA). Lack of knowledge is a key barrier to engaging in such practice. Little is known about the knowledge and attitudes of current medical students and their preparedness to engage in PA promoting practice in the future. This study aimed to investigate the PA knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of medical students attending an Australian university.
METHODS: A sample of 107 pre-clinical medical students from an Australian university completed an online survey. Questions asked about age, sex and past-week PA behaviour (using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short form) as well as understanding of key PA messages and perceptions of the role of a GP, confidence to engage in PA promoting practices and satisfaction with current medical school training (responses were on 5-point Likert scale). Descriptive statistics (proportions, means) were used to summarise demographic and attitudinal measures.
RESULTS: Almost all students (92%) were categorised as being moderately or highly active in the past-week. Knowledge of key PA messages was moderate (3.6 ± 0.9), however understanding of key messages about the dose of PA varied (ranging from 0% to 80.4% agreement). GPs were regarded as having a role to play in promoting PA; with high agreement that discussing the benefits of PA is a part of the role of a GP (4.7 ± 0.5). There was only moderate agreement that participants had received training in the health benefits of PA (3.1 ± 1.0) and in PA counselling (3.2 ± 1.0). Students indicated lower levels of satisfaction with this training (2.5 ± 0.9).
CONCLUSIONS: Students in this study were typically physically active, had positive attitudes toward PA and felt that it was the role of the GP to engage in PA promoting practices. Students understood key PA messages, and while they reportedly received some training in providing PA counselling, they were somewhat dissatisfied with this training.