Boston -- For many older adults, a visit to the doctor is not complete without the bestowal of at least one prescription. What if, in addition to prescribing medications as necessary, physicians also prescribed exercise? Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, a researcher in the Lipid Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University, and Heather Mernitz, PhD, now of the Nutrition and Cancer Biology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, propose using the familiar concept of a prescription to help physicians incorporate exercise recommendations into their routine practice. In the journal American Family Physician, McDermott and Mernitz provide clinicians with explicit guidelines for giving their older patients effective "exercise prescriptions."
Their motto for determining an exercise prescription is 'FITT-PRO':
According to FITT-PRO principles, an exercise prescription must explicitly instruct the patient regarding what type of exercise to do, how often, how hard, and for how long. The exercises must also progress over time as the patient becomes more physically fit. McDermott and Mernitz caution that, as with medication prescriptions, these exercise parameters must be personalized to suit each patient's health status and goals.
McDermott, who is also a licensed nutritionist, points out that fewer than half of older adults report ever having received a suggestion to exercise from their physicians. "Clinicians shouldn't feel like they have to be fitness experts to discuss exercise with their patients," she says. "These guidelines are intended to serve as a how-to manual for health care providers." The article provides sample prescriptions, as well as instructive tables and figures for clinicians to follow in creating individualized exercise prescriptions for their patients.