Physical activity counseling in primary health care is regarded as a useful complementary preventive and therapeutic measure and is advocated by leading public health institutions. This integrative review summarizes the available data on physical activity counseling in primary care in Germany. A systematic literature search in various databases (peer reviewed and grey literature) was carried out for quantitative and qualitative studies on physical activity counseling and use of “Exercise on Prescription”. The 25 studies included show a very high methodological diversity and, in some cases, considerable risks of bias, with limited comparability across studies. Counseling was provided in all studies by physicians. They report frequent physical activity counseling, which is partly confirmed and partly refuted by patient data. The use of “Exercise on Prescription” is at a very low level. Information on the frequency of physical activity counseling in Germany varies depending on data source and is sometimes contradictory. Our review provides a synthesis of various perspectives on routine physical activity counseling in primary care in Germany. Future studies using standardized and validated instruments in representative samples are needed to further knowledge on counseling and to be able to establish trends in prevalence. Strengthening the topics of physical activity and health and physical activity counseling in medical curriculum is strongly recommended.
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