Claire Small says - Take Physical Activity

Clinical Director Claire Small focuses on the single best thing we can do for our health in her blog for Australian Business.

What if I told you there was a medication that could prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, depression and obesity; that was cheap, easy for people to take, readily available and with virtually no side effects.

What if I also told you that people who don’t take this medication are more at risk of dying than if they were a smoker, a diabetic and obese – combined together, and that 37,000 people in the UK die every year as a result of NOT taking this medication.

First of all – you’d probably want to know why you don’t know about this drug and why all doctors, healthcare professionals and members of the government aren’t shouting about it loudly? – and that is a really good question.

Because the medication we are talking about is called physical activity or exercise.

We tend to think about exercise as something you do to lose weight or “get fit”, but very few people know how important exercise is in preventing many of the diseases I have listed and how effectively it can be used to treat these conditions and many others, including dementia, osteoporosis and arthritis. There is strong research evidence to show in many cases, exercise is more effective than medication in treating and preventing these diseases and there is also strong evidence that prescribing exercise is more cost effective as well; something we should be giving serious consideration to in our cash strapped NHS. The recent introduction of the “sugar tax” in Britain has got people talking about what we eat and its effects on our health, which is great, but the important role that physical activity plays in preventing diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease has been seriously overlooked.

It’s important that we talk about physical activity rather than exercise. Many people are immediately put off by the concept of exercise, disliking the thought of getting out of breath, hot and sweaty or wondering about how they can fit those gym visits or aerobic classes into an already busy life.  But to reduce the risk of these serious conditions, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, you don’t need to push yourself to get hot and sweaty – you simply need to get moving! ...Read more