Determinants of physical activity promotion in primary care from the patient perspective of people at risk of or living with chronic disease: a COM-B analysis

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Chronic disease (CD) accounts for more than half of the overall global disease burden and physical activity (PA) is an established evidence-based strategy for the prevention and management of CD. Global policy emphasises the value of embedding PA into primary healthcare, highlighting the positive effects on PA behaviour. However, there is limited implementation of PA protocols in primary care, and research is needed to guide its integration into routine practice. The voice of the patient is underrepresented in the literature, resulting in the absence of critical insights into determinants of PA promotion in primary care. The purpose of the research was to identify the perspectives of people at risk of or living with CD on the determinants of PA promotion in primary care and to map these determinants across the six COM-B constructs.

Semi-structured interviews (n = 22), guided by the COM-B model were conducted with people aged 35–60 years, at risk of or living with CD and not meeting the PA guidelines. A hybrid analytic approach of thematic inductive and deductive analysis was applied to the participant transcripts guided by a COM-B informed coding framework.

In total, 37 determinants across constructs related to capability, opportunity and motivation were prominent, examples include; physical capability constraints, the conflation of exercise with weight management, credibility of the health services in PA advice, communication styles in PA promotion, expectations of tailored support for PA, social support, accessibility, and integration of PA into routine habits.

Exploring the determinants of PA promotion through the lens of the COM-B model facilitated a systematic approach to understanding the primary care user perspective of the healthcare professional (HCP) broaching the topic of PA. Findings emphasise the value of HCPs being supported to broach the issue of PA in a therapeutic and patient-centred manner using diverse and flexible approaches, while highlighting the importance of tailored, accessible PA opportunities that build self-efficacy and foster social support. The research provides valuable learnings to support PA promotion and the development of strategies in primary care through encompassing the perspective of those living with or at risk of CD.
Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
Article number190
Pages (from-to)190
JournalBMC Primary Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2024


  • Behaviour Change
  • COM-B model
  • Chronic disease
  • Healthcare
  • PA promotion
  • Health Promotion/methods
  • Chronic Disease/prevention & control
  • Exercise/psychology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research


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