How do healthcare professionals perceive physical activity prescription for community-dwelling people with COPD in Australia? A qualitative study

Aroub Lahham, Angela T. Burge, Christine F. McDonald, Anne E. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Clinical practice guidelines recommend that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should be encouraged to increase their physical activity levels. However, it is not clear how these guidelines are applied in clinical practice. This study aimed to understand the perspectives of respiratory healthcare professionals on the provision of physical activity advice to people with COPD. These perspectives may shed light on the translation of physical activity recommendations into clinical practice. DESIGN: A qualitative study using thematic analysis. SETTING: Healthcare professionals who provided care for people with COPD at two major tertiary referral hospitals in Victoria, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: 30 respiratory healthcare professionals including 12 physicians, 10 physical therapists, 4 nurses and 4 exercise physiologists. INTERVENTIONS: Semistructured voice-recorded interviews were conducted, transcribed verbatim and analysed by two independent researchers using an inductive thematic analysis approach. RESULTS: Healthcare professionals acknowledged the importance of physical activity for people with COPD. They were conscious of low physical activity levels among such patients; however, few specifically addressed this in consultations. Physicians described limitations including time constraints, treatment prioritisation and perceived lack of expertise; they often preferred that physical therapists provide more comprehensive assessment and advice regarding physical activity. Healthcare professionals perceived that there were few evidence-based strategies to enhance physical activity. Physical activity was poorly differentiated from the prescription of structured exercise training. Although healthcare professionals were aware of physical activity guidelines, few were able to recall specific recommendations for people with COPD. CONCLUSION: Practical strategies to enhance physical activity prescription may be required to encourage physical activity promotion in COPD care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere035524
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • health policy
  • qualitative research
  • respiratory medicine (see thoracic medicine)

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