Personal trainers in GP surgeries and job centres will tackle inactivity, say experts

Personal trainers

Ukactive says lack of exercise, believed to cause 37,000 deaths a year, could be remedied with help of personal trainers across public sector

A coalition of health experts is calling for a personal trainer to be put in every doctor’s surgery and job centre to help tackle the UK’s physical inactivity problem.

The call comes as part of the first joined-up strategy for tackling lack of exercise across society, estimated to cause 37,000 deaths annually and cost the economy £20bn per year.

The plan, Blueprint for an active Britain, will be launched on Thursday by ukactive, a leading not-for-profit organisation. It urges the government to take action across the NHS, social services, transport, workplaces and the built environment.

A key recommendation is that every GP surgery should have access to a trained professional who can help patients work on their fitness and improve their cardio-respiratory and mental health. The physical activity professionals should become a key part of delivery in a similar way to how surgeries have access to physiotherapists.

The strategy also calls for the Department for Work and Pensions to pilot a physical activity referral programme for the long-term unemployed to improve their health as well as recommendations for older generations, stating that care homes and councils should be required to put in place free or subsidised physical activity sessions for older people.

Ukactive says the cost of implementing the plan will be offset by how much will be saved in the future. Tanni Grey-Thompson, Paralympic champion and the organisation’s chair, said: “The NHS and other public services are under a lot of pressure right now, so we’re not calling for ‘new money’ to fund trainers. But given the enormous cost inactivity places on health and care services, we do think there’s a strong argument for more preventative action.”

Research has shown that 29% of people in England are classed as physically inactive, failing to do just 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. This gives them a significantly greater risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, dementia and mental health problems. Around 70% of the NHS’s annual budget is used to manage such long-term conditions.

It has been estimated that if everyone met minimum guidelines for activity set by the chief medical officer, nearly 37,000 deaths a year could be prevented in England alone.

Despite this, funding for tackling the problem is minimal. “We know that physical activity programmes only attract around 4% of public health funding at present,” Grey-Thompson said. “This is much lower than funding to tackle alcohol abuse, obesity and STDs, despite physical inactivity contributing to more premature deaths. It’s vital that helping people to establish good exercise habits is central to the NHS’s core business.”

Prof Mike Pringle, president of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said: “The promotion of physical activity in primary care, with support from royal colleges and local authorities, can only benefit the health of the whole community. Primary care is where most of NHS prevention and long-term condition management takes place.”

In addition to the RCGP, the report includes contributions from a wide range of leading health experts and charities, including former health minister and surgeon Lord Ara Darzi, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Nuffield Trust as well as the charities Mind and Age UK.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nicola Slawson, for theguardian.com on Thursday 5th November 2015 05.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010