The proposal was part of NICE's draft quality standard for encouraging physical activity within the general community, which was published today.
Examining how changes to local strategy, policy and planning can encourage and support people of all ages to be more physically active, the quality standard said: ‘Local authorities and healthcare commissioners [should] ensure that they have physical activity champions at a senior level.’
These individuals ‘should be enthusiastic and passionate about promoting physical activity work in partnership with other partners such as transport, leisure and health,’ and should also ‘ensure that community engagement approaches are used to develop and review local strategies, policies and plans to increase physical activity’.
This could include work to make public open spaces more accessible and also the promotion of physical activity in workplaces and schools.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'We know that being physically active is a vital part of living a healthy lifestyle, which is good for everyone’s long-term physical and mental health and wellbeing, and in turn good for the NHS as a whole, so whatever can be done to encourage and inspire people to get up and move more should be done.
‘Physical activity and lifestyle is a clinical priority for the RCGP and we have appointed our own clinical champions to support GPs to encourage patients to make simple lifestyle changes that could have a positive impact on their health.'
NICE also suggests that planners should prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport over motorised vehicles when working on new or upgraded roads. This may include reallocating road space to support walking and cycling, restricting vehicle access, and introducing road-user charging and traffic-calming schemes.
NICE said this would help people to 'be more active in their day-to-day lives by encouraging safe, convenient, active travel that is accessible for everyone, including older people and people with limited mobility’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard said: 'It is a courageous move by NICE to challenge sectors outside of healthcare, but one that recognises the need for a society-wide approach to encouraging people to take steps to be more active and lead healthier lifestyles, and the notion of people from the health community working with those in other sectors is a good and important one.'
According to Public Health England (PHE), physical inactivity is responsible for one in six UK deaths and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4bn annually - almost £1bn of which falls directly on the NHS.
However, just 10 minutes of moderate exercise per day - such as brisk walking - can reduce risk of early death by 15%.
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: ‘Getting people to be more physically active by increasing the amount they walk or cycle has the potential to benefit both the individual and the health system.
‘As a society we are facing a looming type 2 diabetes crisis, which is in part caused by people not exercising enough. We need more people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise.’
A consultation on the draft quality standard will run until 1 February.