The important publications to read about physical activity

A Call to action

Physical Inactivity: The biggest public health problem of the 21st century

This key essay summarises on one page the massive burden that inactivity has on health. We have focused on obesity but all the evidence points to inactivity as the main culprit. Yes, too many people are overweight and obese but get them active and their health profile increases significantly more than if they simply lose weight.

Department of Health

Start Active Stay Active

This has the official guidelines for physical activity from the Department of Health and really has to be read. This provides the guidelines and rationale behind these guidelines.

If you haven’t got time to read the document then download the PDFs below. These series of one page fact sheets are a useful summary to the Start Active Stay Active document.

Fact sheet 1: early years (under 5s) Fact sheet 2: early years (under 5s capable of walking) Fact sheet 3: children and young people (5-18 years) Fact sheet 4: adults (19-64 years) Fact sheet 5: older adults (65+ years)


Brief Interventions

This is a useful description of what a brief intervention for physical activity actually involves and the evidence behind it. (Print only to page 23)

Walking and Cycling

For any health professional interested in getting their patients active then walking and cycling is often the first step. These guidelines are very dry and mostly for local authority but any GP practice can set up a health walk programme independently by going to the Macmillan/Ramblers Walking for Health website.

Physical Activity and the Environment

This looks at how the environment can be used to increase physical activity which is the most effective way to get whole populations more active. This is more for public health and planners but CCGs should be putting pressure for change and GPs could start taking note of the surroundings for their patients.

Physical Activity in Children and Young People

This is more about policies and directed at schools and local authority but as inactivity in children is a major health problem CCGs should understand this. This is less relevant for individual GPs unless you passionately care about getting children more active.

Reviews of the health benefits of physical activity

The BHF National Centre for Physical Activity and Health has created two excellent reports that help make the case for physical activity through evidence of benefits and the economic case.

Making the Case for Physical Activity The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity

Sustrans Review.

Sustrans has neatly summarised all the health benefits of physical activity

Swedish Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease

Sweden has created the most comprehensive review called “Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease”. It’s a very large document and a bit wordy but it has all the references you will ever need.

The Lancet Series on Physical Inactivity

The pandemic of physical inactivity: global action for public health

Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy

Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: lessons from around the world

The lancet published a review of physical activity in July 2012 stating that physical inactivity is the 4th leading cause of death in the world. This series put UK at the bottom of the leader board of countries in which inactivity is causing major health problems. These articles are Important to read as a health professional to provide the context of our daily work. These are free but you need to sign in.

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