The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers noted that this trend could help more Americans lower their risk for chronic illnesses, reduce their dependence on medication and improve their quality of life.
The investigators used data from the U.S. National Health Interview Surveys from 2000, 2005 and 2010 to examine whether or not physicians make a point to recommend regular physical activity to their patients.
The research revealed that between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of adults advised to get regular exercise jumped from 22 percent to 32 percent — a 10 percent increase.
Among those told most often to engage in some sort of physical activity were obese patients. Exercise was also increasingly recommended to patients with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Also, data from each of the three survey time points indicated that female patients were more likely to have been urged to exercise than male patients.
By 2010, nearly one-third of adults who had seen a doctor in the past 12 months had been advised to begin or continue an exercise regimen, according to information in a CDC news release.
In addition, the researchers found, the percentage of adults aged 85 and older who were told to exercise nearly doubled from 15.3 percent to 28.9 percent over the course of 10 years.
Although more people of all races and ethnicities were advised to get physically active, the study revealed that Hispanic adults had the largest percentage point increase over the decade.
Despite the rising trend, the prevalence of exercise advice remains well below 50 percent of U.S. adults and varies significantly among different groups of people, the authors cautioned.
"Physicians and other health professionals can be influential sources of health information, and exercise counseling by primary care physicians has been shown to increase patients' participation in physical activity," according to CDC researcher Patricia Barnes, of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and her colleague Charlotte Schoenborn. Their findings are published in the February issue of the CDC's NCHS Data Brief.