Original research| Volume 22, ISSUE 4, P478-483, April 2019

General practitioner referrals to exercise physiologists during routine practice: A prospective study

Published:October 20, 2018DOI:



      Physical activity is essential in the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases and should be a standard component of clinical care. The aims of this study were to examine the trends and characteristics of referrals to exercise physiologists in routine care in a nationally representative sample of general practitioners (GPs) in Australia.


      This prospective study was an analysis of Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) GP data from April 2009 to March 2016.


      In total, each of 6827 randomly sampled GPs recorded details of 100 consecutive encounters (N = 682,700). The rate of exercise physiologist referrals was calculated by patient and GP characteristics.


      Over the study period, the rate at which GPs referred their patients significantly increased from 0.38 to 1.44 per 1000 encounters. Patients aged 45–64 years were most likely to be referred (1.32 per 1000 encounters). Patients from non-English-speaking backgrounds were referred at less than half the rate (0.41 per 1000) of those from English speaking backgrounds (0.96). Female GPs referred patients (1.27 per 1000 encounters) twice as often as male GPs (0.64). One-third (35.3%) of GP referrals were made for problems relating to the endocrine, nutritional and metabolic systems (e.g., obesity, diabetes mellitus); only 1.6% of referrals were made for mental health conditions.


      Although increasing, the rate of GP referral to exercise physiologists was low and associated with patient and GP characteristics. Education of GPs about the role of exercise physiologists in the prevention and management of chronic disease is needed.


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