Skip to main content
Find An Activity Marker Find An Activity

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: physicalactivity@phe.gov.uk

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’!

Age UK

Age UK are a National registered charity and have been in operation for many years. They provide support and advice on a whol...
Find out more

Alzheimer’s Society

Leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia. Taking regular ...
Find out more

Asthma UK

Having asthma doesn’t have to hold patients back. Asthma UK have tips and advice that can help patients get active and feel...
Find out more

Breast Cancer Now

Taking part in physical activity before, during and after breast cancer treatment can have many health benefits. It can help ...
Find out more

British Heart Foundation

Heart and circulatory diseases kill 1 in 4 people in the UK. Patients can reduce their risk of heart and circulatory disease ...
Find out more

British Lung Foundation

If patients have a lung condition, being active can help to improve their quality of life and help to manage their condition....
Find out more

Diabetes UK

Being physically active is good for diabetes. This includes traditional exercise like going swimming or playing football, but...
Find out more

Macmillan Cancer Support

Taking part in physical activity before, during and after cancer treatment can have many health benefits. It can help prevent...
Find out more

Mind

There is lots of research that shows why physical activity has fantastic benefits to mental health. When we exercise the body...
Find out more

MS Society

Regular, moderate exercise is known to be an important part of maintaining good health and wellbeing for people with MS. Ther...
Find out more