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New online tool launched to help nurses ‘prescribe exercise’

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A new database has been developed to arm nurses and other healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to confidently prescribe physical activity to patients.

The Moving Medicine resource includes latest evidence for staff to access and feedback to patients on how exercise can be beneficial in the management and prevention of a variety of common conditions.

“It’s so important healthcare professionals have the information they need at their fingertips to advise patients”

Matt Hancock

The toolkits are tailored for specific ailments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, dementia, depression, frailty, inflammatory rheumatic disease and type 2 diabetes.

They have been developed in consultation with more than 300 healthcare professionals and patients.

The project is run by the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine in partnership with Public Health England and Sport England, with support from National Lottery funding.

Currently, one in four of the population in England does less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week and are classified as inactive.

Physical inactivity is in the top 10 greatest causes of ill health nationally. Evidence shows that one in four patients would be more active if advised by a doctor or nurse.

“Exercise is one of the best preventative tools we have to keep people healthy”

Maria Trewern

However, nearly three quarters of GPs do not speak about the benefits of exercise to patients due to either lack of knowledge, skills or confidence.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped the Moving Medicine tool would pave the way for a culture shift in medicine in which referrals for exercise were just as common as prescriptions for medication.

He added: “There is a mountain of evidence to suggest that patients with all kinds of conditions – from depression to diabetes – would benefit from more exercise, yet understandably those suffering with chronic illness are more likely to be inactive.

“That’s why it’s so important healthcare professionals have the information they need at their fingertips to advise patients with complex health needs on how to get more active – and this doesn’t have to mean joining a gym. It can be doing more of the things we love, whether that’s playing football, swimming or going for long walks,” he said.

The tool has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing. Maria Trewern, outgoing chair of council at the college, said: “The evidence is clear – exercise is one of the best preventative tools we have to keep people healthy.

Health and social care secretary

Matt Hancock

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

Matt Hancock

“Exercise can help prevent a wide range of diseases from dementia to strokes,” she said. “It is also a powerful tool in the treatment of mental illness and diabetes.

“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,” she added.

Dr Paul Jackson, president of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine in UK, said introducing more physical activity into every care pathway across the NHS was an “essential, cost-effective” intervention to improve people’s health.

He added: “Moving Medicine will ensure that all health care professionals have up to date information on physical activity presented in a useable, easy to understand format, enabling them to inform their patients and motivate them to become more active.”

Moving Medicine is a key component of the Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme, which is designed to support healthcare professionals to embed physical activity into their approach to treating patients for key conditions in line with existing National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance.

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