New findings reveal another reason why health clubs need to reach out to the sedentary population: The national rate of physician counseling about exercise is low. The study, which was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (Oct. 27, 1999), found that the rate of physician exercise counseling is only 34 percent among patients who saw a physician in the previous year.

The study analyzed data gathered from 9,299 respondents to a questionnaire. It found that counseling rates did not vary significantly by physician specialty, or by sex or race of the patient.

However, physicians were more likely to counsel patients who were older than 30, who were married and who were of higher socioeconomic status. They were also more likely to counsel patients who were already overweight and already had cardiac disease or diabetes.

Authors point out that these results indicate that doctors see exercise as a secondary, rather than primary, prevention for health problems. They also conclude that the failure to counsel younger, disease-free and sedentary adults and those from lower socioeconomic groups might represent important missed opportunities for primary prevention. These missed opportunities can be picked up by health clubs and fitness professionals.