Prescribe exercise to beat obesity, doctors urged

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GPs should start prescribing exercise to help tackle the nation's obesity crisis, council leaders have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said family doctors across England and Wales should note down physical activity goals for their patients to encourage them to be more active.

These could be outdoor walks, activities in parks, or family exercise classes.

There are some local initiatives where GPs are encouraging their patients to do more exercise, but the LGA said it would like the schemes to be rolled out across the country.

In Weymouth, Dorset, GPs can refer their patients to take part in activities including walks, conservation work, gardening and sailing.

And East Riding of Yorkshire Council has developed an IT system which connects GPs with leisure centres so they can book patients directly on to an exercise-on-referral scheme.

The LGA's community and well-being spokeswoman, Izzi Seccombe, said: "Not every visit to a GP is necessarily a medical one. By writing formal prescriptions for exercise, it would encourage people to do more physical activity.

"There are some instances where rather than prescribing a pill, advising on some type of moderate physical activity outdoors could be far more beneficial to the patient.

"This could be going on organised walks, conservation work with a local park group, or gardening at home.

"There are already some good examples where this is being piloted in the UK and it is something we should consider on a nationwide basis."