OBJECTIVE To identify and compare the amount of material on physical activity and the management of smoking, hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia in medical journals and magazines frequently read by general practitioners. METHOD Qualitative study assessing the total number of articles and advertisements to which Australian GPs are exposed in journals and medical magazines they are likely to read. RESULTS Only 6% of articles about cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in the Medline search and 5% in the medical magazine search discussed exercise prescription or how to start and maintain an exercise program. Most CVD risk factor articles were on the pharmacological treatment of hypertension (42%), followed by hypercholesterolaemia (32%) and smoking cessation (20%). A review of medical magazines found similarly ranked results, and a count of advertisements indicated 67% related to hypertension, 26% to hypercholesterolaemia and 7% to smoking cessation. CONCLUSIONS GPs are less well informed by the medical media about physical activity than about other traditional CVD risk factors, although the epidemiological evidence for their health benefits is similar. Strategies should be developed to inform doctors about the evidence of benefits from regular moderate physical activity, and for GPs to recommend exercise in most clinical encounters.