The level of physical activity (PA) training taught across medical schools in Australia is not keeping pace with the growing obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics, potentially leaving many future doctors unprepared to help patients meet recommended guidelines, according to a new study.
A team of researchers led by the University of Sydney and Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) surveyed 17 of the 19 medical schools across the country, collecting data from phone interviews and online surveys between June and October 2015 to deliver the first national snapshot of PA training across medical school curricula.
The study found PA counselling was virtually non-existent as part of medical students’ total training, with almost half of all medical schools surveyed (42.9 percent) reporting the level of PA training was “insufficient” to prepare their students to provide PA counselling to their future patients. The results are published in the latest Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
The longest programs (six years) spent only 12.3 hours on PA training across the entire degree, with less than half of the medical schools (47.6 percent) teaching national strength guidelines in addition to national aerobic guidelines (86.7 percent). Only six schools (42.9 percent) employed specialised instructors to deliver their PA training.
PA remains the most prevalent chronic disease risk factor in Australia, with 85 percent of Australians not meeting current Department of Health endorsed guidelines for aerobic and strength promoting PA.
There is a plethora of evidence indicating how exercise can be used as medicine to treat many chronic and complex health conditions. Additionally, the evidence also supports the promotion of PA in the primary care sector to improve public health outcomes.
This research is not alone amongst emerging studies around the world which highlight recent levels of doctor PA training in medical curricula being linked with a gap in PA promotion in primary healthcare.