Your GP could soon PRESCRIBE exercise to combat obesity and disease

Doctors are being urged to "prescribe movement" to patients suffering from the most common conditions, including cancer, depression, dementia, and type 2 diabetes.

Patients will be asked about how active they are, before being informed about how exercise can help symptoms and may be guided towards certain activities.

We need to get more people moving because obesity is already said to affect one in four adults – and that's leading to more people living with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain cancers like breast and bowel, and stroke.

The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine has partnered up with Public Health England (PHE) and Sport England, to launch a new tool called the Moving Medicine toolkit.

The digital aid provides information for health workers on how to start conversations about physical activity – including information on things like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), inflammatory rheumatic disease, ischaemic heart disease, musculoskeletal pain and those who have suffered falls or frailty.

PHE said that one in four patients would be more active if a doctor or nurse gave them advice on how to be so.

The problem, they said, is that not enough GPs are confident or knowledgeable enough about fitness.

Doctors can currently refer patients to PTs for prescribed workouts but not every practice is signed up to such a scheme and not everyone can commit to a weekly session.

By getting doctors and nurses to encourage more patients to be more active and telling them how certain simple moves might help their conditions, it makes fitness more accessible.

Dr Alison Tedstone, head of physical activity at Public Health England, said: "With millions accessing the NHS every day, healthcare professionals play a vital role in helping people to better understand the benefits of physical activity on their health.

"Taking the time to have these conversations has the power to inspire people to move more and make a big difference to their health."

The Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said that: "there is a mountain of evidence to suggest that patients with all kinds of conditions – from depression to diabetes – would benefit from more exercise, yet understandably those suffering with chronic illness are more likely to be inactive.

"That's why it's so important healthcare professionals have the information they need at their fingertips to advise patients with complex health needs on how to get more active – and this doesn't have to mean joining a gym.

"It can be doing more of the things we love, whether that's playing football, swimming or going for long walks.

"I am delighted to launch this brilliant web tool for healthcare professionals – I hope it will help pave the way for a culture shift in medicine where referrals for exercise are just as common as prescriptions for medication."

And it's true – we know that exercise can help with a range of mental and physical health issues.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that people with mild to moderate depression work out three times a week, for up to an hour at a time.

Getting active can also help manage type 2 diabetes because it can work to maintain blood sugar levels.

You just have to be mindful that if you do have a chronic condition, you might have to take certain precautions – be that avoiding certain types of exercise or making sure that you're well hydrated/got stable blood sugar before starting.

And that's where your doctor comes in – they'll tell you what exercises you're best off doing, and what you need to be aware of before you start.

Earlier this month, we revealed why walking is such a great low-impact fat-burner – perfect for exercise beginners and buffs alike.

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