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Doctors should be able to prescribe exercise like a drug

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 05 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2468

Rapid Response:

Re: Doctors should be able to prescribe exercise like a drug

Of course we should all be doing more exercise - the evidence for the benefits of exercise is overwhelming!

The best exercise is something that people incorporate into their lives, and do because it's routine and they enjoy it (or, next best, because they have to).

So I hesistate to mention gyms - it's probably more appropriate for many people that they find a way to exercise that is part of a daily routine, not something special that they do in a gym.

However... It would help enormously if gyms didn't try to absolve themselves of any liability by asking patients to bring a note from their doctor declaring that they are fit to attend a gym. These notes are meaningless, they are not NHS work (so they should be charged for), and they waste doctors' time. Some doctors feel that they may be held accountable if something bad happens to the patient while at the gym, and are therefore reluctant to provide such notes.

Gyms should drop policies that require such; and until they do, a standard (?BMA) response that patients can download at no cost, declaring that most people will benefit from exercise and should be considered responsible enough to decide for themselves what is too much might help.

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 May 2016
Peter M English
Public Health Physician
N/A - this is a personal response
West Ewell, Surrey