Under its expanded health and social care remit, NICE has released new advice to GPs and practice nurses to help them identify adults who are not active enough and to encourage them to get moving.

NICE says that the UK is simply not active enough as a nation: only 39% of men and 29% of women aged 16 and over are meeting the UK chief medical officers’ minimum recommendations for physical activity in adults.

Regular physical activity can significantly improve both physical and mental well-being and increase life expectancy and can also help prevent or alleviate conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

But it can also help save money as these conditions are estimated to cost the taxpayer more than £1 billion a year in England alone.

The cost of inactivity to the wider economy (for instance through sickness absence or premature deaths) is estimated at more than £6 billion.

This is why the new advice is urging GPs and nurses to identify adults who are not currently meeting the UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines and encourage them to do more physical activity, with the aim of meeting the UK physical activity guidelines.

It also says that this advice should be tailored to the person’s health status (for example whether they have a medical condition or a disability), the person’s motivations and goals, current level of activity and ability, circumstances, preferences and the barriers preventing them from being physically active.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of public health at NICE, said: “The cost of inactivity to people’s health and wellbeing as well as to the wider economy is huge. Given the benefits, many healthcare professionals could do more to encourage people to be more active.

“This advice sets out simple ways for family doctors, practice nurses and others working in primary care, to consider levels of physical activity in every patient they see and to help people to improve their health by boosting their activity levels. This simple advice could have a big impact on improving lives and saving taxpayers’ money.”