HF calls on GPs to prescribe exercise before pills

New campaign urges health professionals to get patients active

 New campaign urges health professionals to get patients active

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling for GPs to provide routine physical activity health checks for people turning 50. The BHF made the call while presenting MPs with a policy 'blueprint' for its 30 a Day campaign. 

The push is part of the BHF's new 30 a Day UK-wide campaign which targets over 50s who are not getting the recommended amount of physical activity.

The campaign features light-hearted billboard adverts showing combinations of every-day ways to be active, such as washing the car, gardening or swimming.

The BHF is also urging GPs and other primary care staff to provide advice on physical activity to all patients and to refer those who need more help getting exercise to physical activity programmes.

A new BHF YouGov poll reveals almost 60 per cent of people asked have not discussed their physical activity levels with their GP since turning 50 (1).

Dr Mike Knapton, Director of Prevention and Care at the BHF, and a GP himself says: "Our survey results are concerning. GPs should, as a matter of course, be discussing this issue with their patients. Health professionals can do more in prompting patients to get active. They could motivate big changes by asking a few simple questions.

"The BHF call for routine fitness checks at 50 and again at 60 could help to bring a vital improvement in the health of our nation. We should look towards a future where the focus is on disease prevention rather than treatment.

"The message is simple: 30 minutes of activities such as daily walking, gardening or swimming could help many avoid chronic debilitating diseases as well as saving the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds."

The BHF, working with the National Coalition on Active Ageing, is urging the government, health professionals, employers and the fitness industry to work together to help over 50s get active.

Other 30 a Day calls in the health sector include:

·        NHS Health Boards and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop incentives for GPs to promote exercise

·        Health Boards and PCT commissioners of services to ensure heart patients and people experiencing other chronic conditions have access to appropriate rehabilitation that includes a physical activity component

·        Local authorities to scrutinise whether the active ageing agenda is supported by local health providers

·        Universities and colleges to provide training in physical activity promotion for all primary care students including doctors and nurses.

Statistics revealed at the launch of 30 a Day show someone dies in the UK as a direct result of physical inactivity every 15 minutes (2). Yet just 30 minutes of activity a day will help stave off heart disease and other illnesses.

The BHF YouGov poll also revealed almost a third of people give lack of time as a reason for their inactivity, (1). But three out of four would choose a sedentary activity such as using their computer, watching TV or reading if they had a spare 30 minutes in the day.

MPs were last week presented with a policy 'blueprint' for 30 a Day outlining the challenges and recommended targets at the Houses of Parliament.

As part of the campaign, the BHF is sending 2.5 million leaflets to households across the UK and the campaign poster will go up on over 2,000 billboards across the UK.

Health professionals can visit the campaign website, bhf.org.uk/30aday to learn more about the campaign or can order a free booklet by calling 0808 156 5630.

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