Physical activity counseling in primary care: Insights from public health and behavioral economics

Kerem Shuval, Tammy Leonard, Jeffrey Drope, David L. Katz, Alpa V. Patel, Melissa Maitin-Shepard, On Amir, Amir Grinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Physical inactivity has reached epidemic proportions in modern society. Abundant evidence points to a causal link between physical inactivity and increased risk for numerous noncommunicable diseases, such as some types of cancer and heart disease, as well as premature mortality. Yet, despite this overwhelming evidence, many individuals do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity required to achieve maximum health benefits. Because primary care physicians’ advice is highly regarded, clinicians have the unique opportunity to play an important role in enabling patients to modify their behavior at the point of care with the goal of guiding patients to adopt and maintain an active lifestyle. In the current study, the authors evaluate pertinent literature from the fields of medicine/public health and economics/psychology to suggest a comprehensive approach to physical activity counseling at the primary care level. They first examine the public health approach to physical activity counseling, and then proceed to offer insights from behavioral economics, an emerging field that combines principles from psychology and economics. The application of key behavioral economics tools (eg, precommitment contracts, framing) to physical activity counseling in primary care is elaborated. CA Cancer J Clin 2017;67:233–244.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalCa-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • behavioral
  • counseling
  • economics
  • exercise
  • motor activity
  • primary health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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