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New Physical Activity Consensus Statements to Help Healthcare Professionals Get Patients More Active

Physical Activity Consensus Statements Released

The benefits of physical activity outweigh the risks. It is also safe for people living with stable long-term health conditions. These are main messages of the New Physical Activity Risk Consensus Statements, published in November by the Physical Activity Risk Consensus Group.

The group's aim was to develop clear statements for healthcare professionals, through expert consensus, about the medical risks of physical activity for people living with long term conditions.

The Physical Activity Risk Consensus group was made up of two parts:

1. Steering group contributors who, through their expertise, provided clinical context to the evidence base, guiding the development and direction of the consensus statement.

2. A group of experts who critically appraised and informed the development of the consensus statements on risk.

Breaking down barriers to physical activity for people with long term health conditions

The need for these statements came from a desire to have consistent messaging on risk across healthcare, decreasing the barriers to engagement that people with long term conditions face. For example, the fear of adverse events or needing medical clearance, rather than guidance. 

Here are the 5 consensus statements produced:

  1. For people living with long-term conditions, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks
  2. Despite the risks being very low, perceived risk is high
  3. Person-centered conversations are essential for addressing perceived risk 
  4. Everybody has their own starting point
  5. People should stop and seek medical attention if they experience a dramatic increase in symptoms.

In addition, 8 symptom/syndrome-based statements discuss specific risks for musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, cardiac chest pain, palpitations, dysglycaemia, cognitive impairment and falls, and frailty. 

Below is a blog from Neil Tester, Director of The Richmond Group of Charities, of which we are members, about why we're supporting the new consensus statements on physical activity:

"The Richmond Group of Charities is proud to endorse these 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. British Journal of Sports Medicine has released this statement about the benefits of physical activity outweighing the risks.

"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. So the statements are intended to be useful to conditions that would benefit from activity.

"This 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."

Helping patients to get active

We have several resources to help people to move more. This includes a Physical Activity Helpline Advisor, 10-week ‘Get Moving’ classes - which can be done online or face-to-face in the Midlands, and other online content such as videos, posters, and interactive booklets.

You can now also watch 6 videos from our Helping Patients Get Active conference, which took place in November and was aimed at healthcare professionals.

Please read the new consensus statements, use them and share them, so you can be part of this vital change.

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