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Doctors should prescribe exercise to tackle obesity

Wednesday 21st September 2016
Doctors should formally prescribe exercise to obese patients, according to new recommendations. Image: Jacob Ammentorp Lund via iStock
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Doctors practising in the UK should be prescribing exercise to overweight or obese patients on a more regular basis.

This is the recommendation of the Local Government Association (LGA), which is calling for so-called 'green prescriptions' to become more common in Britain, following their success in New Zealand.

Since their introduction there in 1998, eight in ten doctors have issued a green prescription to at least one patient, instructing them to regularly take part in moderate exercise in order to benefit their health.

Results have shown that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of patients noticed a positive change to their health and wellbeing after being formally prescribed exercise, with over two-thirds (67 per cent) encouraged to adopt a more healthier diet as a result. Overall, this led to 51 per cent of respondents reporting that they felt significantly stronger and fitter.

Several GPs in the UK have already begun prescribing exercise to patients, with a three-year scheme to encourage green prescriptions currently underway in Dartmoor and Exmoor. However, the LGA is calling for greater uptake of green prescriptions to help combat the country's growing obesity problem, which is proving to be a significant drain on health service resources.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, commented: "Not every visit to a GP is necessarily a medical one. By writing formal prescriptions for exercise, it would encourage people to do more physical activity.

"There are some instances where rather than prescribing a pill, advising on some type of moderate physical activity outdoors could be far more beneficial to the patient. This could be going on organised walks, conservation work with a local park group, or gardening at home."

Steven Ward, executive director of ukactive, added that past research has shown physical exercise can be an effective cure or deterrent for more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases, as well as many mental health conditions.

Written by James Puckle

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