Background: Although prior research has shown that physicians perceive various barriers that hinder the systematic promotion of physical activity in practice, no study has contrasted the barriers reported by physicians who regularly prescribe physical activity with those who are not prescribing it.
AIM: The aim of this qualitative study was to explore barriers and enablers to prescribing physical activity in primary care among family physicians who are currently prescribing it and those who are not.
METHODS: This study used quantitative, to assess physicians’ prescribing behavior, and qualitative, to identify barriers and enablers within each group, methodologies. Participants were drawn from a web-based survey. For the current study, identified family physicians prescribing physical activity (n=3; prescribers) and not prescribing it (n=6; nonprescribers) participated in a face-to-face semi-structured interview. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was employed in which four researchers independently identified barrier and enabler themes.
RESULTS: Various barriers hindering physical activity prescriptions were reported by both groups of physicians, with some differences noted across groups. Cross-group comparisons also led to the identification of enablers among prescribers. These included awareness of the value of physical activity prescription, positive attitude toward physical activity, recognizing physical activity prescription as part of family medicine, having access to resources (e.g., physical activity prescription pads), and developing resiliency against patient rebuttal and non-compliance.
CONCLUSION: This study improves our understanding of the barriers encountered by family physicians to prescribing physical activity in primary care. Focusing on the enabling factors elucidated in this study may help family physicians counter perceived barriers and increase physical activity prescription rates
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