Allied health networks that incorporate exercise professionals into primary care have been shown to be especially effective at improving physical activity levels in various populations. Nova Scotia is particularly inactive as compared to other regions of Canada, with few Nova Scotians meeting the daily physical activity guidelines. Access to physical activity supports such as tailored physical activity counselling and prescription, and physical activity monitoring devices (all shown to benefit physical activity levels and adherence) can be particularly challenging to access in Nova Scotia, where exercise participation is typically an out-of-pocket (i.e. outside of primary care) expense. To make these supports more readily accessible, and to develop practicable strategies, it is imperative that referral schemes be evaluated and explored in rural communities. My pilot study examined and described the physical activity referral programs of a collaborative health practice that incorporates a qualified exercise professional in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. Using accelerometers and questionnaires, physical activity and exercise levels were measured pre- and post- exercise/physical activity intervention. The effectiveness of physician-prescribed exercise was compared to exercise referral through an exercise physiologist and to participation in community exercise programs. In addition to physical activity levels pre- and post-, questionnaires assessed participants’ stage of change (readiness to change physical activity habits), task and regulatory self-efficacies (ability to execute and plan physical activity), and physical activity and exercise levels. Questionnaires also left room for open-ended responses to questions regarding which interventions were of most help to the individual in improving the aforementioned variables. By better understanding what people need in terms of support for increasing physical activity, better intervention can be provided in primary care. Ideally, this research will help to pave the way in solidifying the role of exercise professionals in an allied health care world. To incorporate exercise professionals as part of the standard in health care would be to take a step toward a more proactive and sustainable health care system.
Doing my honours degree at Acadia has given me the opportunity to explore the research world, specifically in the field of kinesiology. Honours has challenged me in ways that I could not have expected, but has also pushed me to grow in my ability to think critically, organize, and prioritize. My little taste of research has provided me with a more wholesome appreciation for the scientific evidence that my degree is founded on. I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Jonathon Fowles, to the School of Kinesiology, and to Acadia University for granting me this experience; it truly has been an honour.