Initiative Promotes Tracking Exercise as a Vital Sign

A couple years back, Kaiser Permanente began tracking its members exercise habits—Exercise Vital Sign—as a regular part of checking temperature, blood pressure and pulse during routine office visits.  With an electronic health record that tracks that information, they now have a systemic method for collecting important information that will help physicians better advise their patients about lifestyles and health.  This initiative is explored in a recently published study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The study examined the electronic health records of 1,793,385 Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients ages 18 and older from April 2010 to March 2011 and found that 86 percent of all eligible patients had an exercise vital sign in their record. Of those patients who had an exercise record, one-third were meeting national guidelines for physical activity, and two-thirds were not meeting guidelines. Of those not meeting guidelines, one-third were not exercising at all.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that Americans engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, to receive maximal health benefits. The guidelines state that regular physical activity reduces the risk of many adverse health outcomes.

The Exercise Vital Sign is part of Exercise is Medicine ®, a multi-organizational initiative coordinated by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Medical Association to encourage primary-care physicians and other health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients.

Check out the interview below with Bob Sallis, MD, for information on the program. You can get more detail on Kaiser Permanente’s study here.

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