Brigham and Women’s Wants Doctors to Prescribe Exercise to Patients

In a viewpoint letter, doctors from the hospital said prescribing physical activity could help patients follow recommendations.


Prescription photo via Shutterstock

Next time you visit your doctor, you could be getting a prescription for more than antibiotics.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) co-authored a call to action encouraging doctors to prescribe exercise, just as they would medication. The viewpoint article, published today in JAMA, asserts that prescribing specific amounts of exercise to some patients could be a more effective intervention than simply recommending good habits.

JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, said in a statement that a prescription for just 30 minutes of walking a day could have huge health impacts for at-risk patients:

“Advice from health professionals has been shown to influence the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors, including physical activity, and a prescription to walk 30 minutes per day could be one of the most important prescriptions a patient could receive.”

The article cites data that says as few as 34 percent of adults discuss physical activity during routine medical appointments, despite the fact that such counseling has the ability to change habits. The letter also suggests that physicians urge patients to use pedometers or other fitness trackers, and that they discuss the connection between exercise and overall health with patients.

The idea might seem a little out-there, but the prescription model is already in use to support nutrition and food security programs. Who knows? Maybe a ‘scrip is what you need to trade a nightly Netflix binge for a trip to the gym.