heart of the matter

Physical activity is a hot topic at present. There have been two recent statements, one from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and one from the Academy of Scottish Royal Colleges and Faculties.

The message is very similar, both emphasising the damaging effects of physical inactivity on health.

It is estimated that physical inactivity is responsible for 2.500 deaths per year in Scotland and several million worldwide.

The list of diseases caused, or worsened by physical inactivity, is endless, but the key ones worth emphasising are cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and mental ill health.

On the other hand, regular exercise extends our lives by seven years, reduces physical and mental ill health, and makes us feel better. If it was a pill we would all be queuing up for it.

The recommended amount of exercise for adults is 30 minutes five times per week, although I would make that 30 minutes per day.

For children it is one hour per day. Currently, a quarter of children, and about 35 per cent of adults fail to meet these targets.

A number of avenues are being explored to promote the exercise message.

Firstly, doctors are being encouraged to ask patients how much physical activity they take in a week.

We always combine a question about smoking with alcohol, which is a bit harsh on alcohol, which in moderation may do us some good.

We should now add a question about physical activity.

Doctors will also provide advice about the most appropriate activity for each patient.

It is important to emphasise that exercise should be tailored according to the preferences of the individual.

Walking, jogging, cycling and swimming are all equally good.

It is also worthwhile using every daytime opportunity to walk at lunchtime.

We should use the stairs and not sit down for longer than an hour at anytime.

I now always have everyone getting up and stretching their legs for five minutes every hour during our more prolonged meetings.

Our position statement regarding activity includes greater emphasis in schools, better facilities within the workplace, and making it easier for the public to walk or cycle for at least part of the way to work.

Emphasising the importance of physical activity to medical students is also being implemented.

It is also important for people working within the NHS to be given the opportunity to exercise regularly and also to lead by example.

Indeed our local health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, now has an excellent scheme to allow employees to use the many excellent hospital gym facilities.

I have to admit I have been using the Stobhill gym for some time in glorious isolation.

Last week I nearly walked into a gym in full swing with a women’s exercise class. I think it might have been called been a “bums and tums class”.

I elected to wait outside, and was surprised to receive a few wolf whistles when I eventually started my routine.

I no longer run in Lenzie for two reasons.

Some have observed that my exertions do not quite meet the definition of running.

Others have commented on me running with my daughter in Lenzie. I don’t have a daughter, but I do have a young-ish wife.

Nonetheless, I felt that such an error merited a full eye check.

I may add that my wife was delighted!

Dr Frank Dunn