Get Fit, Get Active

29% of people in England are classed as physically inactive, failing to take at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. Those are the findings of UKactive which has recently launched a campaign to promote the idea of providing access to physical activity professionals in GP surgeries, employment centres and old people’s homes.

Other recommendations from UKactive’s ‘Blueprint for an Active Britain’ include providing low-interest loans for small businesses to enable them to invest in physical activity schemes for staff and the appointment of a ‘physical activity tsar’ to act as a coordinating lead on fitness policies. These policies could include the provision of ‘exercise on prescription’ for those who could benefit from increased physical activity.

Government figures estimate that physical inactivity costs the UK up to £20 billion per year and contributes to one in six deaths, making inactivity as dangerous as smoking. In fact, if everyone met the minimum guidelines it is estimated that 37,000 deaths every year could be prevented. Commenting on the findings Prof Mike Pringle, President of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said: “Physical activity is recognised to be essential to physical and mental wellbeing,” adding “the promotion of physical activity in primary care, with support from Royal Colleges and local authorities, can only benefit the health of the whole community.”

Interestingly, the findings with regards to inactivity are spread right across the age ranges. Even amongst the young, only 50% of 7 year olds are meeting the recommended daily activity guidelines. But it is amongst those of working age that there is greatest concern, with jobs becoming increasingly sedentary. Some employers are fighting back, offering options such as standing desks or access to lunchtime exercise classes but as the UKactive report shows, there is still quite some way to go.

UKactive’s idea of siting fitness professionals in health centres alongside physiotherapists goes some way towards providing a more holistic treatment program. Whether people are sedentary by choice or inertia, whether they are sedentary because they are recovering from an illness or injury, or whether they have some other underlying health issue; providing access to health professionals who can encourage people to be more active whilst at the same time treating other health issues, can lead to a faster recuperation time as well as an ongoing improvement in health and mental wellbeing.

It has to be acknowledged that any move to increase treatment options potentially stretches health budgets still further. But it also has to be acknowledged that if increased expenditure in the short term leads to long-term improvement in an individual’s health then overall the health service will benefit.

In the meantime, NHS and private health practices are working hard to reduce ongoing expenditure without an associated reduction in service levels. For example, providing patients with access to an online appointment service can reduce administration time and cost. Similarly, sending out appointment reminders by SMS text or email has been proved to reduce the number of no-shows and therefore improve the efficiency of health practices. Private health practices have also benefited from areas such as secure card processing in which card details are taken when the appointment is booked. This not only further reduces no-shows it also enables private clinics to take an agreed fee should patient fail to attend the appointment.

It doesn’t take much to build some kind of physical activity into a daily routine. With the encouragement of health professionals, employers and bodies such as UKactive hopefully we can all take some steps towards getting fit by getting active.