Understanding physical activity promotion in physiotherapy practice: A qualitative study

Anna Lowe*, Chris Littlewood, Sionnadh McLean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Physical inactivity is a major public health issue and healthcare professionals are encouraged to promote physical activity during routine patient contacts in order to reduce non-communicable diseases and enhance individuals' quality of life. Little is known about physical activity promotion in physiotherapy practice in the UK. The aim of this study was to better understand physiotherapists' experience of physical activity promotion in clinical practice. Design: A qualitative study was undertaken comprising 12 telephone interviews with participants using a quota sampling approach. The qualitative data was analysed using a thematic analysis approach and written up according to COREQ guidelines. Findings: Four themes were identified (1) Current physiotherapy practice (2) Barriers to, and facilitators of physical activity promotion, (3) Exercise or physical activity? and (4) Functional restoration versus general wellbeing. Conclusions: Physiotherapists use routine clinical contacts to discuss physical activity. However, brief interventions are not consistently used and no common framework to guide physical activity promotion was identified. Approaches appear to be inconsistent and informal and focus largely on short-term restoration of function rather than health promotion. There is scope to improve practice in line with current guidance to maximise potential impact on inactivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Health promotion
  • Physical activity
  • Physiotherapy


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