GPs 'must urge public to exercise', MPs warn

GPs should 'take urgent action' to communicate the benefits of exercise to the public, a House of Commons health select committee report has said.

Consultation: GPs should urge patients to exercise (Photo: JH Lancy)
Consultation: GPs should urge patients to exercise (Photo: JH Lancy)

The report, The Impact of Physical Activity and Diet on Health, says that physical activity should no longer be recommended solely for weight loss, but that there needs to be a ‘far greater emphasis’ on its wider benefits.

GPs need to spread the message that ‘physical activity in its own right has huge health benefits totally independent of a person’s weight’, the report says.

‘It is vital that the importance of physical activity for all the population—regardless of their weight, age, gender, health, or other factors—is clearly articulated and understood,’ the health committee wrote.

‘We recommend that the government, Public Health England (PHE) and health professionals, in particular GPs, take urgent action to communicate this crucial message to the public.’

Obesity prevention

The report echoed PHE adviser Charles Alessi’s call for diabetes and obesity prevention schemes to be as accessible as smoking cessation programmes.

‘We recommend that primary care takes the lead, as it does for smoking cessation, in promoting physical activity and preventing obesity - these topics should not be off limits during consultations,’ the report said.

Thirty-minute bursts of moderate exercise, five times a week, should bring ‘dramatic benefits’ to patients, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

The committee cited evidence from Dr William Bird, a GP with an interest in physical activity. He said: ‘Only 10% of the benefits of physical activity for cardiovascular disease are weight-related. The other 90% are the anti- inflammatory effects - the other aspects of cellular change that take place when you are physically active.’

Twenty minutes of exercise a day for angina patients was more effective than a coronary stent, he told the committee.

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