A new report from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges calls on doctors to encourage their patients to partake in regular exercise. Dancing, cycling, even sex, it argues, are more effective than many drugs and can bring dramatic health benefits.
Lead author, Scarlett McNally, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, spent two years analysing more than 200 separate pieces of research to gauge the full impact that regular physical activity could have on the nation’s health.
“This is about reminding doctors and patients that fitting small amounts of regular exercise into their schedule can make a huge difference to their health. It could be as simple as taking the stairs rather than a lift, kicking a ball about with your children or grandchildren. We’ve got to change what we think of as normal, because what we are seeing in our hospitals and surgeries up and down the country is that normal has become not enough exercise. Too many of my patients are paying the price for that with broken bones and years of ill-health that could have been avoided by being more active.”
Just 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week can help patients with depression, keep diabetes under control and make prostate cancer much less likely to spread. McNally also told The Times that she had come to realise how many of her elderly patients with fractured hips could have avoided the injury if they had done more exercise.
“Exercise is as good as many of the drugs out there but it’s not been sold like that before,” she said, adding that little and often was the way to go for most people. “When you fit it into your daily routine so it’s just what you do, you become fitter and healthier without having to force it.”
Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges which commissioned the report said:
“This is about people and their doctors believing that the small effort involved is worth it because they are worth it. There really is a miracle cure staring us in the face, one which too many patients and doctors have quite simply forgotten about.”
Last month, a study of 334,161 people, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, found that inactivity causes 676,000 deaths a year, while obesity contributes to approximately 337,000 deaths. Moderate activity has also been found to reduce your risk of catching flu.