Councils back outdoor exercise prescription

Councils have claimed that if doctors prescribed exercise outdoors to patients we would see more people doing physical activity, which would help reduce obesity.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is suggesting that the UK adopt a similar model to New Zealand’s ‘green prescription’, which has seen 72 per cent of patients in the country notice positive changes to their health, 67 per cent witnessed their diet improve and 51 per cent feel stronger and fitter.

Running since 1998, eight out of every 10 GPs in New Zealand have issued green prescriptions to patients. The LGA believes that nationwide prescribing moderate physical activity goals, rather than medicine, would benefit patients in the UK who are obese or overweight. This could be achieved through outdoor walks, activities in parks, or family exercise classes run by the local council.

Latest guidelines suggest that one in four patients would exercise more if advised to do so by a GP or nurse, while research published in the British Medical Journal found that a green prescription can improve a patient's quality of life over 12 months and help people live longer, healthier lives.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "Not every visit to a GP is necessarily a medical one. By writing formal prescriptions for exercise, it would encourage people to do more physical activity.

"There are some instances where rather than prescribing a pill, advising on some type of moderate physical activity outdoors could be far more beneficial to the patient.

"The green prescription model is something that could help to tackle major health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. There are already some good examples where this is being piloted in the UK, and it is something we should consider on a nationwide basis."

Steven Ward, executive director of ukactive, said: "Britain is in the grip of a cradle to grave physical inactivity crisis and the great outdoors is a fantastic gateway for getting people moving again.

"Physical activity has been hailed as a miracle cure which can help to treat and prevent more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases and if GPs were to prescribe this it would bring huge benefits to people's physical and mental health.

"As ukactive has seen with our targeted intervention programme Let's Get Moving, empowering at-risk patients to take part in regular physical activity transforms lives and offers a potent antidote to our growing health crisis."