Physical inactivity as serious as smoking, say leading docs

BEN STARAV, SCOTLAND: 28 DECEMBER 2014: Doctor Andrew Murray during a run in Glen Coe in the West Highlands of Scotland
BEN STARAV, SCOTLAND: 28 DECEMBER 2014: Doctor Andrew Murray during a run in Glen Coe in the West Highlands of Scotland

A former Borders doctor who now champions healthy lifestyles has added his weight to claims that lack of physical activity is as dangerous as smoking or alcohol abuse.

Doctor Andrew Murray – who also manages to fit in extreme physical challenges alongside his day job – said a report issued last week by leading doctors at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow made perfect sense.

He said: “The evidence of the benefits of regular physical activity is becoming stronger every year.

“Our clear message to patients is that regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Any form of physical activity, for example walking or cycling as part of the commute, or walking or sport in leisure time, gets the happy hormones going, and helps prevent more than 40 major diseases such as type-2 diabetes, heart attacks and some types of cancer.

“Every step is a step to health and happiness.

“Scotland’s chief medical officer recently labelled physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer in Scotland, and urged all health professionals, including doctors, to ask patients about physical activity levels, and offer appropriate brief advice on how to be more active more often.

“This is not happening routinely in our hospitals or GP surgeries and we are calling for that to change.”

The college doctors said questions about physical activity should be asked at medical assessments as routinely as those about whether you smoke and the amount of alcohol you consume, and appropriate advice given to enable patients to be more active more often.

President of the college, Dr Frank Dunn CBE, said: “Small changes in a person’s level of activity can significantly impact on their health – for example, we know that just 30 minutes of exercise daily can reduce early death by 30 per cent.”

Dr Murray is about to set off on a run across the Namib desert, but of course that is not an option for many people wanting to get fitter.

One of the best ways of getting out and about safely is to join one of the local walkers and ramblers groups – see Country Diary above.

The full report can be accessed here: http://www.rcp.sg/physicalactivity