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J R Soc Health. 1997 Feb;117(1):52-5.

Exercise by prescription.

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  • 1Health Promotion Services, Southampton Community Trust.


General Practitioners (GPs) see over 90% of their practice population in three years. Over 50% of the adult population is below the perceived level of physical activity as recognised by the Allied Dunbar Physical Activity score (Allied Dunbar, Health Education Authority and Sports Council, 1992). Physical fitness levels in adolescents and children are declining, while the incidence of obesity is increasing. GPs, with their Primary Health Care Team, are in a unique position to be able to discuss the health benefits of regular physical activity with their patients during the consultation and offer, if appropriate, a prescription for a course of physical activity to a local leisure centre or community activity centre. Many communities have facilities for physical activity. These include leisure centres, schools, village and church halls, the home and the general practice surgery. A directory of resources for physical activity for all age groups should be available in the surgery waiting room area. A community co-ordinator can network community facilities and resources to meet individual need. The co-ordinator can be funded by the general practice surgery, Health Authority, Local Authority, Parish or District Council. An agreed protocol for exercise prescription referrals to suitable community facilities can benefit patient health care for a variety of medical, surgical, social and mental conditions. Auditing exercise prescriptions shows a health benefit, with improved quality of living and reduced prescription medicines.

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