Fit doctors are more likely to recommend physical activity to their patients, according to new research presented last week at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 58th Annual Meeting and Second World Congress on Exercise is Medicine.

From 2005 to 2010, a research team tracked the health of 577 freshman medical students in Colorado and found students who said physical activity counseling was highly relevant in their future clinical practice were more likely to be fit themselves.

Physical fitness was determined by waist circumference, body mass index, fasting glucose levels and lipid profiles, in addition to the 20-meter shuttle run test. The attitudes toward physical activity counseling were gauged through students’ answers to “How relevant do you think it will be in your future medical practice to counsel your patients on physical activity?” and “I will have the ability to counsel my patients more credibly and effectively if I am physically active.”

Eighty percent of students agreed that advising patients about exercise was relevant. This group was 1.7 times more likely to exhibit healthy levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and 3.2 times more likely to have normal triglycerides levels than their peers who did not believe physical activity counseling would be relevant in their future practice.

“Previous evidence indicates that nearly two-thirds of patients would be more willing to become physically active if their doctors advise it, and these patients find an active, healthy doctor’s advice more credible and motivating,” said lead researcher Felipe Lobelo, M.D., Ph.D. “It is critical for current and future doctors to understand the public health importance of providing physical activity counseling to every patient.”