Doctors call for more use of exercise in the treatment and management of disease

Ahead of the Olympics, a new report from the Royal College of Physicians highlights the need for more medical engagement in the delivery of exercise for both injury and illness. Other key findings include exercise being critical in both the prevention of disease and managing established disease.

The report, from the Sport and Exercise Medicine Committee Working Party of the Royal College of Physicians, finds that medical provision in this area is patchy. Existing work, involving exercise and fitness providers, GPs, and some specialist rehabilitation services, suffers from a lack of leadership and coordination. Consequently provision is piecemeal and subject to a series of well-meaning but often transient initiatives. The report calls on the legacy from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to rectify this situation.

The group concluded that there is a lack of knowledge among doctors of the benefits of exercise. There is also a lack of practical skills among health professionals in the prescription of exercise to patients that have diseases that can be treated and managed by physical activity. This probably reflects a lack of knowledge among doctors of the benefits of exercise, and a lack of practical skills in the prescription of exercise in disease states. Frequently, the risks of exercise are misunderstood and overestimated.

Professor Mark Batt, president of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, said:

Exercise is an effective and cheap prevention and treatment. Unlike many drugs there are few side-effects and of course it can be good for the environment too. Despite this, there remains reluctance among healthcare professionals, including doctors to ask about physical activity levels and use exercise as a treatment. There needs to be a concerted effort directed at improving medical knowledge and engagement and royal colleges should show leadership in this area. The legacy from the London 2012 Olympics makes it the ideal opportunity to start this work now.

The Royal College of Physicians recommends that:

  • a national strategy for physical activity, health and wellness, which is medically driven, is developed
  • expertise from the sport and exercise medicine (SEM) specialty is spread across all health professionals
  • Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) incentives for physical activity interventions are developed
  • medical students should receive education in SEM as part of the national curriculum
  • the providers of exercise instruction – physicians, GPs should work to appropriate professional standards, which should be developed to aid the identification of care pathways
  • the legacy from the London 2012 Olympics should be used to develop of pilot projects.


For further information, please contact Lisa Cunningham, Public Affairs Manager, on +44 (0)20 3075 1468 / 07990 745610, or email


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