Exercise Vital Sign Could Aid Treatment of Disease, Cut Healthcare Costs

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ACSM Study: Asking patients about their exercise routine could improve care and treatment.

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Adding a vital sign for exercise as an assessment tool in clinical settings could improve patient care, according to research published in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. This study, in the November edition of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, shows that asking patients about their exercise habits could be an important piece of a patient’s care and treatment that is often ignored.

“This research offers preliminary support that implementing an exercise vital sign in addition to the traditional vital signs— pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respirations— in a large healthcare system is very possible and could offer many benefits as well as additional patient data,” said the primary investigator, Karen Coleman, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Research and Evaluation.

The authors reviewed data from April 2010 to March 2011 from more than 1.7 million outpatient visits to Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Kaiser Permanente began using the exercise vital sign in October 2009. Patients at Kaiser are routinely asked questions about their usual daily levels of activity and are assigned a minutes-per-week value based on their answer. Using a regression model, this study demonstrated that a greater disease burden increased the likelihood of physical inactivity among the sample patient population. As expected, researchers also found lower activity levels among patients who were older, obese or members of ethnic minorities.

“There is no better indicator of a person’s health and longevity than the minutes per week of activity a patient engages in,” said Robert E. Sallis, M.D., one of the authors and also the chairman of the Exercise is Medicine® advisory board. “When incorporated in a healthcare setting, the exercise vital sign can be an important tool for prevention and management of disease.”

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise® is the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the research paper (Vol. 44, No. 11, pp: 2071-2076) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 133. Visit ACSM online at http://www.acsm.org.

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.

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Annie Spencer
American College of Sports Medicine
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