Prescribing Physical Activity
Making physical activity a routine part of clinical care
Guidance for Healthcare Professionals
Introduction by Dr Ross Wilkinson, NHS GP and PHE Physical Activity Clinical Champion.
Inactivity is seriously damaging our health. Evidence suggests it contributes to 1 in 6 UK deaths, equal to smoking, and to 40% of all long term conditions. All four Chief Medical Officers of the UK nations endorse regular physical activity to prevent disease, manage existing long term conditions and improve quality of life for ourselves and our communities. The widespread benefits of physical activity result not only from physical reconditioning, reducing inflammation, and boosting immune system function but by making new friends, learning new skills and bringing back self-esteem.
We, as healthcare professionals, can help to stem the tide of inactivity and disease by having brief physical activity conversations with our patients. Evidence shows that healthcare professionals are a credible source of physical activity information and 1 in 4 people say they would be more active if advised by a doctor or nurse. I try to discuss physical activity with as many of my patients as possible, young, old and the disabled, and aim to base the discussion around what would appeal to them as individuals – the list is endless, whether it be simply walking with their partner outdoors, gardening, chair-based exercise or perhaps a nudge towards something more challenging like ‘Couch to 5K’. The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidance informs us ‘Any activity is better than none, and more is better still.’ The key is to work with your patient and find something that they would find enjoyable – very often the greatest chance of ensuring lasting change is to commit to regular physical activity with a friend or relative.
There are many other ways to educate yourselves and your patients about physical activity such as the excellent disease specific resources listed below. I would also highly recommend visiting the ‘Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme’ website which provides e-learning modules and also an online ‘Moving Medicine’ resource to help you fit your Physical Activity conversations into your time pressured consultations, no matter how brief. If you are looking for something more interactive PHE have partnered with Sport England to provide the nationwide Physical Activity Clinical Champion project, a free physical activity educational workshop, peer-led by a PHE Physical Activity Clinical Champion – proven to enhance knowledge and confidence of healthcare professionals to deliver the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines as brief advice. To find out more or to book a session contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the best ways of inspiring our patients to become more active is to be a role model and lead by example. The more people in your organisation you involve, the stronger the message it sends to your patients – the RCGP have set up an Active Practice Award to encourage exactly this. In short being active in any way makes you feel good, be more productive and much healthier so in the words of Together Active, let’s get ‘Everyone More Active More Often’!