The government has launched a new scheme this month that it hopes will spur patients leading sedentary lifestyles into getting some exercise to shake-up their well-being.

The 12-month pilot will initially see eight GP surgeries in five London primary care trusts - Islington, Wandsworth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Haringey – taking a more active role in promoting exercise as a means of boosting health.

Under the Physical Activity Care Pathway doctors will assess patients’ physical activity via the GP Physical Activity Questionnaire and, where necessary, will provide advice on how to best go about increasing fitness.

Each patient expressing a wish to get more active will be given a Let’s get moving pack, which includes personal exercise plans, information on local activities, a map of the nearest park and open spaces, as well as advice on diet and exercise. GPs will then follow-up at three- and six-month intervals to check on patients’ progress.

The link between physical fitness and general health has long been established, and yet many are still failing to reach even the basic level of activity recommended – thirty minutes of moderate activity five times a week.

Economic strain

Furthermore, the estimated cost of physical inactivity in England is £8.2 billion a year, which does not include the contribution of inactivity to obesity which itself has been estimated at £2.5 billion annually, the government notes.

Explaining the drive behind the move, Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “Physically active people are up to 50% less likely to be at risk of major chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, yet almost three quarters of adults do not achieve the recommended weekly amounts of physical activity.”

“The Physical Activity Care Pathway will seek to expand healthy choices by signposting patients to appropriate, community-based activity, whether that be a regular walk in the park, a dance class or stepping back into sport,” she added.