Nearly three quarters of GPs do not speak about the benefits of physical activity to patients because of lack of knowledge, skills or confidence, research suggests.
This is despite the fact that one in four patients would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The statistics have been released to coincide with the launch of a digital Moving Medicine tool that helps to help healthcare professionals advise patients on how physical activity can help to manage their conditions, prevent disease and aid recovery.
Currently, one in four of the population in England does less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week and is classified as inactive.
Physical inactivity is in the top 10 greatest causes of ill-health nationally, with negative impacts on health, wellbeing, social and economic outcomes for individuals and communities, PHE said.
The new tool focuses on helping to address the most common long-term health conditions affecting the population, such as cancer, depression, musculoskeletal pain and type 2 diabetes.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, claimed 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 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,” he added. “It can be doing more of the things we love, whether that’s playing football, swimming or going for long walks.”
PHE’s review of the evidence links moderate activity – around 30 minutes brisk walking, cycling or swimming, five times a week – to a reduced risk of a host of diseases.
Diabetes and high blood pressure risks were found to be 50% lower among regular exercisers, with risks of heart disease down by 40% and rates of depression and cancer at least one quarter lower.
The studies also show rates of dementia and frailty were around one fifth lower among those who regularly took exercise.