Comparison of physical activity levels in physicians and medical students with the general adult population of the United States

Date Published:

2013 Nov


OBJECTIVE: Physicians who are physically fit have a higher likelihood of counseling their patients about physical activity. We sought to determine if the amount of physical activity in physicians and medical students differs from the general adult population of the United States and if geographic differences in physical activity levels exist. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was distributed to physicians and medical students throughout the United States to determine their level of physical activity according to US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) 2008 guidelines; data were collected from participants from June 2009 through January 2010. Our data set was compared with physical activity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and we used geographic regions defined by the US Census Bureau. RESULTS: Our survey respondents contained 631 attending physicians, 159 fellow physicians, 897 resident physicians, and 262 medical students. Only 64.5% of the general US adult population meets DHHS guidelines for physical activity, but 78% of the survey participants fulfilled the guidelines. The percentage of US adults who do not engage in leisure-time physical activity is 25.4% compared with 5.8% of survey participants. Survey respondents in the southern region had the lowest physical activity levels and participants in the western region had the highest levels. CONCLUSION: Physicians and medical students engage in more physical activity than the general US adult population. Regional differences in the general population's physical activity also persisted in physicians and medical students. Therefore, physicians who complete less physical activity may be less likely to encourage patients to engage in physical activity in geographic areas where the adult population is less active.
Last updated on 07/12/2018