Quebecers in need of physical activity could soon be leaving their doctors with a script for exercise rather than for a prescription drug.
The province's 8,800 general practitioners are all getting new prescription pads to give patients direct instructions on how much physical activity they should be doing.
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The program is an initiative of the Quebec Federation of General Practitioners and the Grand Défi Pierre Lavoie — a non-profit organization set up by Lavoie, a nine-time Kona Ironman finisher from Saguenay, to encourage Quebec youth to adopt healthy lifestyles.
The prescription pads allow doctors to instruct patients on how much exercise they should be doing, breaking their daily dose into 15 minute "exercise cubes." A similar system is already used in many Quebec schools.
The type of activity can be tailored to each patient's needs and abilities: for some, it may be swimming or running. For others, it could be as simple as walking or gardening.
"Doctors are showing that they take this seriously," said Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute.
"It's not just advice. This way, it's a medical prescription."
Quebec's health ministry and researchers plan to follow the program for three years to evaluate how well it works.