Our Director Neil Tester blogs about why we're supporting a new consensus statement on physical activity
Today The Richmond Group of Charities is proud to endorse the important new consensus statements on the risks of physical activity for people living with long-term conditions. The statements’ publication is a big step forward in helping health professionals to support people with health conditions to get the many benefits of moving more in ways that work for them.
This work has been led by the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK, Sport England, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (formerly Public Health England) and the Royal College of General Practitioners and developed through expert consensus. We’ve been delighted to be able to inform the process, using the insight from our Movement For All programme and We Are Undefeatable campaign. You can read more about how the statements were developed in this article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine: Benefits outweigh the risks: a consensus statement on the risks of physical activity for people living with long-term conditions | British Journal of Sports Medicine (bmj.com).
We are joining the authors and a range of other expert organisations in asking healthcare professionals to come together with us in creating a new culture in healthcare settings. So what would that look like?
- Regularly having physical activity conversations with patients.
- Using the statements to help address patients’ concerns about the impact of physical activity on their symptoms.
- Empowering patients to make decisions about moving more, in a way that works for them.
- Talking to colleagues about how they are using the statements in their everyday clinical practice and the impact on patients - and encouraging others to use the statements.
The statements encourage the necessary personalised care, considering people’s holistic needs and attempt to move away from condition-specific recommendations and guidance, to make physical activity messages more relevant for clinicians and the population they serve. This is real progress in a world where more and more of us are living with multiple conditions.
It’s a practical and evidence-based approach to addressing a need, bridging a gap between clinical practice guidelines, public health guidelines and lived experience by addressing evidence and insight gaps. It provides tangible support for clinicians with a succinct and practical graphic resource, helping them to understand that risk is low and to embed this knowledge into practice through increased conversations about activity.
The statements address significant entrenched barriers for clinicians and people with long-term conditions. Fear about making conditions worse is a significant barrier for people with these conditions. Concern about the likelihood of adverse events resulting from physical activity is a barrier to clinicians recommending physical activity. From our own research we know that many people with health conditions, especially the least active, need reassurance and support to sustainably change their behaviour and overcome the barriers to activity. We also know that they expect advice about activity from their health professionals, alongside support from trusted, expert charities. These statements will help to meet these needs by encouraging positive conversations between professionals and the people they support.
It’s important to note that the symptom statements don’t automatically translate to every condition. There are limitations due to the gaps in some data, or the quality of data around adverse events and specific conditions where there is emerging evidence, for example chronic fatigue syndrome/ME and long Covid. So the statements are intended to be of use in relation to conditions that would benefit from activity.
Today’s launch marks an important moment, opening the door to new conversations between clinicians and patients that will improve people’s lives and will be crucial to the NHS’s ambitions to tackle health inequalities and improve population health.
Please read the statements, use them and share them, so you can be part of this vital change.