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White Paper calls for greater confidence in exercise referrals

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A group of the UK’s leading exercise referral experts have expressed concern at the initial low uptake of such referrals, offering recommendations to improve the situation in a new white paper.

The group – chaired by Dr Chris Beedie, the academic lead for the ukactive Research Institute – recently took part in an ‘Exercise Is Medicine’ roundtable hosted by fitness supplier Technogym, with the ideas exchanged forming the basis of the paper.

The paper comes just a week after ukactive CEO David Stalker stated that that now is the time for the physical activity sector to step forward and take action if it is to become a ‘central pillar of the nation’s public health strategy.’

Underlining the need to build greater confidence among healthcare professionals and stakeholders in exercise referral programmes, the group of experts recommended a long-term randomised clinical trial be undertaken, to address criticisms of exercise referral and build a stronger base for its advocacy.

A 2006 NICE review of exercise referrals found evidence of short-term positive effects on physical activity levels, but no evidence of long-term benefit. This had significant bearing on NICE’s September 2014 guidance that clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) ‘do not commission exercise referral schemes for the sole purpose of getting people to be more active’, with the exception of schemes that incorporate data collection for analysis and research.

The experts concluded that the absence of qualifying evidence for the long-term benefits of exercise referrals is not due to a lack of long-term data from existing programmes, but inconsistencies in the way exercise referral scheme interventions are run, how data is collected and in how it is reported. They also called for greater co-operation between exercise providers and primary care CCGs, to improve data sharing and foster a greater understanding of what is required to move forward.

Chaired by Dr Beedie, the roundtable brought together eight representatives from academia and exercise referral prescription and provision:

• Dr John Searle OBE, former chief medical officer of the Fitness Industry Association (now ukactive)

• Dr Mike Loosemore, sport and exercise medicine consultant at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health • Dr Steven Mann, ukactive research manager

• Chris Dickson, health & fitness development manager at Xcite West Lothian • Jamie Ross, exercise referral programme manager for GLL London

• Ben Jones, qualification development manager at Active IQ • Martin Noddings, health and sport business development manager at Technogym

To download the white paper for free, click here.

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A group of the UK’s leading exercise referral experts have expressed concern at the initial low uptake of such referrals, offering recommendations to improve the situation in a new white paper.
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