Intended for healthcare professionals


Promotion of exercise in primary care

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 12 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2430
  1. Steve Iliffe, professor of primary care for older people1,
  2. Tahir Masud, consultant physician 2,
  3. Dawn Skelton, reader in ageing and health3,
  4. Denise Kendrick, professor of primary care research4
  1. 1University College London, London NW3 2PF
  2. 2Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham NG5 1PB
  3. 3Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA
  4. 4University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD
  1. s.iliffe{at}

    Concerted efforts can improve patients’ health

    The health benefits of exercise are so great that it is probably the most important self help treatment available. Regular exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers,1 and death from all causes.2 3 Regular physical activity and structured exercise can also reduce falls and injuries, and it is a key factor in the prevention and management of osteopenia and osteoporosis.4 It also promotes mental wellbeing and helps people to manage their weight.4

    Effective promotion of exercise could result in substantial healthcare savings, but this is hampered by our limited knowledge of how to achieve sustained increases in physical activity. The linked study by Lawton and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.a2509) assesses the effectiveness of an “exercise on prescription” programme in less active women in primary care over two years.5

    Current recommendations are that people do at least 30 minutes of physical activity of moderate intensity on …

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