Prescribing walking in Wigan

Physical inactivity is becoming the norm. We know that at least one in three adult patients are likely to be insufficiently active for good health, and one in four very inactive.

As a public health problem it is comparable to smoking, increasing the risk of serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It also heightens the burden on healthcare professionals, leading to expanding costs and lengthening waiting times.

One GP who is taking a stand against inactivity is Dr John Morgan, who practices in Wigan.

“I’m a keen advocate for the clinical use of physical activity, like walking, and have been for a number of years.”

“By helping patients to get and stay active we have noticed 30% to 50% reductions in hypertension, ischemic heart disease, dementia and depression.”

Using physical activity referrals can help empower patients to take control of their health.

“If someone comes in with slightly raised blood pressure then exercise is at the top of my prescription options. I think that patients like being given the option to take positive action to improve their health rather than taking medication.”

It can also bring benefits to the practice. “It has helped us reduce our hospital admissions and the number of patients who require medication. As a consequence our prescribing budgets and our referral to hospital budgets are significantly lower than practices of a similar size.”

Physical activity can also be a more sustainable option for patients. “Patients can take getting active on board, as part of the package they get from their doctor.”

Rather than being something they do for training or competing, physical activity can be for everyday life, health and happiness. “By making physical activity normal again, we can help make long lasting changes in behaviour which can only be to the benefit of patients.”

“As a consequence I would certainly advise my other colleagues and health professionals to refer patients to Walking for Health schemes."