Exercise is the key to health

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One of Scotland’s top cardiologists – Herald columnist Dr Frank Dunn – has warned that inactivity is as big a health threat as smoking.

Dr Dunn, from East Dunbartonshire, has been a heart consultant for the NHS for many years, and is currently the President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow.

This week, 15 health organisations in Scotland called for urgent action to radically change people’s attitudes to exercise. They say that a sedentary lifestyle is linked to more than 40 major diseases, with at least 2,500 people dying in Scotland each year d ue to a lack of exercise.

Dr Dunn CBE said: “Increasing physical activity must be given equal priority to smoking cessation and addressing harmful use of alcohol.

‘‘Despite the serious impact of physical inactivity on health, current strategies for helping people to become more active falls far behind the support given to people to quit smoking, for example. Yet, 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%.”

The (acting) chief medical officer for Scotland Aileen Keel CBE added: “The Scottish Government recognises that increasing physical activity levels in Scotland is a top health priority. We need the help of doctors and other health care professionals to get this on the public’s agenda.

All clinicians have the knowledge and skills to promote health as well as to treat illness, and they should be raising lifestyle risk factors, such as physical inactivity, with patients.

‘‘The impact of a doctor raising these issues, as the evidence shows, can be very powerful.”