Not Practicing What They Preach? Survey Says Doctors Don't Exercise Enough

When it comes to exercise, many doctors may need to start practicing what they preach, a survey of young UK physicians suggests.

In fact, researchers found, the 61 junior doctors they surveyed were less likely to get regular, moderate exercise than other Britons their age.

National studies have estimated that about 44 percent of UK adults between the ages of 25 and 34 meet experts' general recommendations on exercise — at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, like brisk walking, five times per week. In this study, only 21 percent of junior doctors met that goal.

The finding is concerning, in part, because physically active doctors may be more likely to give their patients exercise advice, the researchers report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

"This is very important, not only for the doctors' own health, but also for the health of their patients," write Drs. Lampson Fan and Kunal Gupta of Bedford Hospital.

The survey included 61 junior doctors working at one of two hospitals in southern England. Junior doctors are those in postgraduate training, similar to residents in the U.S. health system.

Many of the doctors in the study said they had been more physically active in medical school. Nearly two-thirds met the recommended exercise levels as med students, Fan and Gupta found.

When asked what kept them from exercising now, the doctors most often cited a lack of time, though many also said they lacked motivation or were too tired after work — excuses that, studies suggest, many of their patients may give.

Even doctors who worked at a hospital with an on-site gym failed to get enough exercise. And many, the survey found, were unaware the hospital had a gym.

The findings, according to Fan and Gupta, suggest that, when it comes to the importance of exercise, current training is "failing" junior doctors. And that, they add, "is likely to adversely affect the way they counsel patients in the future."