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UK doctors urged to prescribe more exercise

health and fitness Updated: Jul 14, 2012 14:56 IST
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British doctors may be lacking an understanding of the important role that exercise plays in preventing and treating illness, according to a new report released Thursday.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) issued a statement urging doctors in the country to leverage the London Olympic Games as an opportunity to get patients inspired about being more active.

The Sport and Exercise Medicine Committee - a working party of the RCP - also found that doctors were often reluctant to recommend exercise to patients because the doctors misunderstood or overestimated the risks of exercising. The report claims that this is perhaps due to a lack of knowledge about the benefits of exercise in treating injury or illness as well as managing serious diseases.

"Exercise is an effective and cheap prevention and treatment," said Professor Mark Batt, president, of the faculty of sport and exercise medicine at the RCP. "Unlike many drugs there are few side effects and of course it can be good for the environment too." He adds: "Despite this, there remains reluctance among healthcare professionals, including doctors to ask about physical activity levels and use exercise as a treatment."

If you are considering beginning a new physical activity, it is advisable to talk to your doctor first, especially if you have a condition such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or arthritis. For other conditions requiring a doctor's approval before exercising, visit the Mayo Clinic:

Health website BeWell recommends the following questions to ask your doctor about your exercise program:

1. Do I need an exam or stress test before beginning an exercise program? Or do I need a followup after I've started the program?
2. Will I need to take any blood tests for the physical exam?
3. For specific injuries, ask about what exercises might aggravate the condition.
4. What about exercise guidelines? For example, what a safe heart rate is for me?
5. How can I tell if I'm overdoing it? And is that bad for me?