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Sport Wales: physical activity saving NHS Wales £295m each year

By Tom Walker    12 Feb 2019
Those who regularly take part in moderate level physical activity are 30 per cent less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, stroke, and dementia

NHS Wales benefitted from an estimated cost saving of £295.17m during 2016-17, thanks to physical activity and sport lowering the need for people seeking medical help to lifestyle diseases.

The figure comes from research commissioned by Sport Wales and undertaken by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, which calculated that adults who participated in sport and exercise at moderate intensity lowered their risk of major illnesses by up to 30 per cent.

As well as the reduced treatment of illnesses, the report links the savings to the time spent in GP appointments and reduced pressures on front line NHS staff and services.

Findings highlight that those who regularly take part in moderate level physical activity are 30 per cent less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, stroke, and dementia, 24 per cent less likely to suffer from colon cancer and 21 per cent less likely to suffer from clinical depression.

Findings also indicate that £23.18m was saved during the year from the reduced use of mental health services by active adults in Wales, while £16.66m was saved from a reduction in GP visits.

"We have always known that there is a positive correlation between being physically active and better all-round health," said Dr Rhodri Martin, Wales' first NHS consultant in sport and exercise medicine at Cwm Taf University Health board.

"What this report has gone on to highlight is that some of the biggest challenges facing our health services can and clearly are being tackled through sport and physical activity and that we need to see more of it.

"The evidence is clear, taking part in sport and physical activity at any level will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and this, in turn, will help to reduce the pressures and burdens on our health service.

"The report makes a strong case for greater collaboration between the sport and health sectors. It highlights the need for physical activity to be used far more as a real alternative to prescribed medication, as a preventative method and as part of a cure."

Sport Wales CEO Sarah Powell added: "There are some brilliant examples throughout Wales which see sport and health working together to get more people, more active.

"These figures show the benefit of sport and physical activity to the health budget, but behind the figures are countless stories of individuals who have been able to improve their health and quality of life by taking part in sport.

"It's vital that we continue to work together to ensure that there are projects across Wales to support everyone in preventing chronic diseases, and to help people recover effectively from illness.

"At Sport Wales we are committed to working with partners who share our ambition of an active nation - a joint approach is vital to improving the health and wellbeing of everyone across Wales, and we are excited that through initiatives such as the Healthy and Active Fund we can do more work across sectors in the future."

To see the full figures from the research, click here for the Sport Wales website.

NHS Wales  Sport Wales  Sport Industry Research Centre  Sheffield Hallam 
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