New Online Resource for ‘Prescribing Exercise’ to Your Patients

Nurse helping senior patient in exercising with resistance band in clinic
Nurse helping senior patient in exercising with resistance band in clinic

More and more research is linking sedentary lifestyles to a variety of physical and mental health issues, but few healthcare professionals address the importance of being physically active with their patients. A resource is now available to help health care professionals to start conversations and advise their patients about physical activity.

Globally, and especially in our modern era of digitalization, adults, as well as children, are becoming more sedentary both at work and at home. The World Health Organization has highlighted this as a significant public health concern. Evidence has associated sedentary lifestyles with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, cancer, depression, increased effects of aging, and more.

The Sedentary Behaviour Research Network found that only about one in five adults in the US meet the physical activity guidelines and that less than 5% get an average of 30 minutes of physical activity per day. In the UK, one in four people is classified as inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.

Despite the above, a study found that over 70% of general practitioners did not talk to their patients about the importance of being physically active – mostly because they are unsure of how to go about it. This is likely to apply to nurses as well.

Physical activities for people with falls and frailty
Physical activities for people with falls and frailty | Via: movingmedicine.ac.uk

Moving Medicine.ac.uk is an easy-to-use website resource with toolkits for health care professionals to assist them in prescribing physical activity for their patients. The site is the result of an initiative in the United Kingdom by the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine in partnership with Public Health England and Sport England. The information is based on the latest evidence as well as consultation with more than 300 healthcare professionals and patients.

The user picks a toolkit tailored for specific conditions including cancer, COPD, ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. The developers were aware that healthcare providers might not have a lot of time to spend with their patients, so the next step is to pick the amount of time available for the conversation – 1 minute, 5 minutes, or more minutes. Step-by-step guides provide questions patients can be asked to get them to think about why they should be more active and achievable steps they could take to be more active. Finally, there are leaflets and personal workbooks for each condition that can be printed out and given to patients or even displayed as posters.

“Moving Medicine will ensure that all healthcare professionals have up to date information on physical activity presented in a usable, easy to understand format, enabling them to inform their patients and motivate them to become more active,” said Dr. Paul Jackson, president of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine in the UK. Referral for exercise should become just as common as prescriptions for medication, according to Matt Hancock, Health and Social Care Secretary in the UK

“The evidence is clear – exercise is one of the best preventative tools we have to keep people healthy,” said Maria Trewern, outgoing chair of the council of the Royal College of Nursing. “Equipping nurses and other healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to prescribe the right sorts of movement and exercise could have life-long benefits for hundreds of thousands of patients.”