Part of a standard physiotherapy assessment is to ask the patient about their social life and what they enjoy doing with their spare time. Most people enjoy some form of exercise, but I am always surprised when patients reply that they "don't do any sport", or "I just watch tele" because "I just don't have time" or "I don't enjoy exercise." What is somewhat concerning is that, in my experience, this group of people seems to be growing in number.
The following excerpt from the Government's website on physical activity makes for grim reading
'People in the UK are around 20% less active now than in the 1960s. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030. We are the first generation to need to make a conscious decision to build physical activity into our daily lives. Fewer of us have manual jobs. Technology dominates at home and at work, the 2 places where we spend most of our time. Societal changes have designed physical activity out of our lives. Increasing car use is a major contributing factor to lower levels of physical activity in the UK. In 1961, 69% of households did not own a car or van, but by 2012 this had decreased to 25%.'
"We are the first generation to need to make a conscious decision to build physical activity into our daily lives." - Wow, what a sorry indictment of our modern world that we have to actively make time to do something that will greatly benefit our health and wellbeing because our daily lives do not allow for such activity.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending an evening lecture by Professor Ann Gates at The University of Manchester. Ann is the founder of Exercise Works!, a company "dedicated to educating and supporting health professionals to understand the benefits and the ability to give constructive exercise advice to patients." Ann's presentation was a real eye-opener for me; as a physiotherapist I'd always been aware of the importance of exercise in injury rehabilitation, but I suppose I'd never appreciated just how vital our contact with patients could be in regards to improving quality of life when it comes to general exercise.
Ann's presentation contained a wealth of information regarding getting people to exercise more, but it also contained a number of quite shocking statistics amongst others:
- 81% of 11-17 year olds are insufficiently active, 81%!!!!
- 79-84% of boys and girls aged 5-15 are not meeting exercise recommendations
- At 74 years old, 78% of women & 88% of men cannot walk for more than 30 minutes
- An inactive person will spend 38% more time in hospital than an active person will for the same condition
Those stats are really quite worrying, especially with regards to younger people. The thing is with exercise is that is if you don't do it, you leave yourself open to a whole range of problems. So it's fair to say that those children who don't exercise sufficiently are likely to have major health problems later in life. But how do we define 'insufficiently active' and what are exercise recommendations. Well, I was rightly ashamed when Ann asked the audience if we knew what the Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) recommendations for exercise were as I had no idea! But then, I reckon most people don't know what they are.
So, here are the most important recommendations from the CMO
- Adults (19-64) should aim for at least 150 mins of moderate intensity exercise, in bouts of 10 mins or more, per week
- Young people (5-18) should aim for at least 60 mins of exercise everyday
- Birth - 5 years old should aim for at least 3 hours of exercise everyday
- Pregnant women should aim for at least 150 mins of moderate intensity exercise per week
Examples of moderate activity are walking, gardening, hiking, dancing, cycling, active recreation, swimming and so on and so on. However, just doing SOMETHING is better than nothing.
Linking back to Dan's last blog on sarcopenia, a big thrust now is on adults doing exercises to improve/maintain strength on at least 2 days of the week. Now we're not just talking lifting weights, but exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and even carrying heavy shopping. Improving strength as you get older is linked to a better quality of life, and better outcomes.
And the benefits of exercise are, well, almost endless!
Image courtesy of @BelievePHQ
So really, when you look at the above stats and recommendations, there really isn't any excuse for people not partaking in some form of exercise each day. "I don't have time" really doesn't cut it as a reason - anyone, ANYONE, can do 10 mins of exercise 3 times a day over 5 days. That even gives you 2 days off!
Along those lines, and from a healthcare perspective, the video below is one of the most important ever produced (I'm not exaggerating). It is 9mins 18secs long, and it could save your life.
So do something, do anything. There is no downside to moving more, to doing more. If you're not sure about what to do, ask! Talk to the professionals, ask us, ask your GP, ask your PT. It is in all our interests for people to be doing more exercise. Physical inactivity increases the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, as well as shortening life expectancy (1). Diabetes and its complications cost over £6 billion every year to treat (2), and the cost of obesity to the NHS is projected to hit £9.7 billion by 2050 (3). So aside from the purely physical benefits of exercise, there is a significant financial benefit to healthcare from exercise as well.
Exercise doesn't cost anything, except your time. What's better? Exercising for 30 mins a day, or being dead for 24 hours a day?
And on that note, I'll leave you with a quote from Robert H. Butler M.D
"If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation."
Further information can be found at
1. Chartered Society of Physiotherapy - Love Activity Campaign - https://bit.ly/2NxuGXc
2. Gov.Uk - Getting Every Adult Active - https://bit.ly/2As8iMz
3. NHS Exercise - https://bit.ly/2lHBlBM