“…like you’re pushing the snowball back up hill”—the experiences of Australian physiotherapists promoting non-treatment physical activity: A qualitative study

Breanne E. Kunstler, Paul O'Halloran, Jill L. Cook, Joanne L. Kemp, Caroline F. Finch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Participating in physical activity is important for maintaining general health. When physiotherapists promote physical activity for the purposes of maintaining or improving a patient‟s general health, they are promoting non-treatment physical activity. Physiotherapists have a responsibility to promote non-treatment physical activity to their patients while also providing the patient with treatment for their presenting complaint. This qualitative study explored the experiences of Australian physiotherapists promoting non-treatment physical activity to patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Ten Australian physiotherapists treating patients with musculoskeletal conditions in private practice and outpatient settings were recruited using a social media campaign and snowballing. All interviewees received one $AU20 gift card for participating. Sixty-minute semi-structured interviews were conducted and were transcribed verbatim. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to design the interview guide and analyse data. Transcripts were used to identify emergent and superordinate themes. Most interviewees were female, aged between 25–34 years, physically active and reported promoting NTPA. The superordinate themes that emerged from the transcripts included: Internal and external influences on NTPA promotion, approach taken by the physiotherapist towards NTPA promotion, challenges experienced when promoting NTPA, and skills and training. In conclusion, physiotherapists reported they were well-placed to promote NTPA, but they face many challenges. The perceived inability to motivate patients to become physically active and the need to prioritise patient expectations of hands-on therapy made NTPA promotion difficult. Workplace specific factors, such as having an open-plan clinic environment and having other staff who promote NTPA, were perceived to make NTPA promotion easier. Using effective marketing strategies that portray the physiotherapy clinic as a physically active environment might see patients expect NTPA promotion, making NTPA promotion easier for Australian physiotherapists in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-237
Number of pages14
JournalAIMS Medical Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

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