“If exercise could be packaged in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation.”

– Robert Butler, National Institute on Aging

Physical Activity and your health

It has never been clearer that participation in physical activity is an essential means through which an individual can directly impact their current and future health outcomes. Given the clear benefits of physical activity the clinical team at Viavi:be welcome Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s recent war cry to NHS and health professionals to make better use of the expertise within the physical activity sector and push this message to a wider audience.

Physical activity is evidenced to treat, manage and prevent more than 20 preventable health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, and a wide range of mental health conditions. Physical activity, often lumbered in the topic of weight management and ‘fitness’, actually provides the one true panacea for health and wellbeing in a crowded marketplace of false promises and narrow-effect medical solutions.

More activity – the value to your health

The value of a pill that could impact on half of the health conditions above, in half as effective a fashion, would have the pharmaceutical industry weeping tears of joy. However, nobody owns the patent to exercise – its free – and in some ways that may be its ‘unsexy’ undoing.

There is a limited commercial appetite to promote something that’s fundamentally free at the point of entry. As the diet and nutrition industry fight for column inches over which food group to cut next (refined sugar by the way) the silent hero of the health story sits in the side-lines. A rise in movement levels, cardiovascular fitness and muscle mass all, individually, push human physiology to an improved state. Asking people to move more is less likely to sell your Sunday newspaper supplement but it is a message that needs to be driven home more powerfully than ever. For those with a named disease, more activity will likely mean less symptoms. For a fortunate few it might even mean a reversal of the disease itself – the recent discovery of diabetes remission is a fantastic example of the power of lifestyle to do what drugs never could!

Hereditary disease and physical activity

For those prone to hereditary disease, physical activity may be a fork in the road steering them away from the diseases of their parents. A family history of heart attacks moved from a pre-determined health destination to a barely considered historical footnote. For those neither ill, nor facing the prospect illness, the metrics of wellbeing are of more pressing importance. To what value improvements in mood, sleep quality, immunity, energy. Being well is more than avoiding disease and physical activity is at the core of any wellbeing improvements. The question has never been ‘if’ physical activity is good for us. The question has never been ‘why’
physical activity is good for us – we understand how the body works more so now than ever before. The question is unequivocally HOW we increase the activity of everybody at every age and stage of their life.

If UK Active and the NHS, through innovative facilities such as Viavi:be, can continue to drive a physical activity agenda there is a real chance to positively change an individual’s health outcomes and reduce the drain on the NHS one person at a time.