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Inspired by London 2012

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2012 issue 3

Welcome to our London 2012 Olympic Souvenir issue. This entire edition of Sports Management is dedicated to telling the story of how you – our readers, supporters and advertisers have created this once in a lifetime event, and to celebrating your achievements.

The arrival of London 2012 has unleased an exciting wave of reports and debates on exercise and wellness, as agencies and research bodies take advantage of the high profile afforded by the Games.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology has just entered the fray by releasing an exciting and thought provoking report, Sport and exercise science and medicine: building on the Olympic legacy to improve the nation’s health. This examines the Olympic legacy and calls on the government to place more emphasis on preventative healthcare through increases in physical activity.

It says there’s a “causal link between physical activity and health benefits for a very wide range of diseases” highlighting that the bill for inactivity in the UK is £5bn a year in direct costs and an additional £8.2bn a year in indirect costs. It calls for further research into this and recommends “the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and other research funders should stimulate research to translate the findings of sport and exercise science and medicine into public health benefits”.

The Committee was obviously underwhelmed by Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, saying his interest was in increasing participation in sport rather than improving the nation’s health, “the latter being the responsibility of the Department of Health”, saying “We find it remarkable DCMS is not concerned with the health benefits of sport...we recommend the Government takes a strong, joined-up approach to promoting the health benefits of exercise and physical activity and that DCMS plays an active part in this.”

We’ve known for years that nothing will radically change until GPs are trained in sports science and financially incentivised to prescribe exercise and the Select Committee report hits the nail on the head by recommending that “the National Health Service, medical schools and the General Medical Council...ensure appropriate training is available for health professionals to support the prescription of exercise as a preventative measure and treatment both at undergraduate level and in CPD opportunities.”

Further reinforcing this point, in its representation to the Select Committee, Sport England argued that exercise prescription should “sit alongside pharmaceutical and surgical interventions,” and made a case for a “cultural change to improve national physical activity levels...led by the NHS”.

Most excitingly, the Select Committee “invites the NHS to consider adding physical activity to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF)” (the system of performance management and payment of GPs). This is great news indeed.

I’m sorry to be cynical, but I’ve always believed that as soon as doctors are paid to prescribe exercise, it will happen super fast – as if by magic. Paying GPs to prescribe exercise effectively is the one thing above all other that we can do to make the most difference to the health of the nation.

And just to round out the argument nicely, new research, published in a most timely fashion in The Lancet the same week as the Select Committee report, found that inactivity kills as many people globally as smoking 5.3million deaths a year. There really isn’t much more to add.

Liz Terry, editor [email protected]

twitter: elizterry

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