Doctors encouraged to prescribe exercise as medicine to patients

16 November 2021

Exercise is the best, cheapest and most accessible medicine available, and in order to improve chronic disease mortality rates, people need to move more. Despite the vast research supporting this notion, many Australian doctors still aren’t talking to their patients about their physical activity levels.

This week, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is promoting “Exercise Right for Doctors Week”, a campaign aimed at educating doctors, nurses and health care professionals about the benefits of prescribing exercise as medicine.

“During Exercise Right for Doctors Week, we’re offering access to free online education (accredited with the RACGP, APNA an ACRRM) that’s all about prescribing exercise as medicine,” says Anita Hobson-Powell, ESSA CEO.

“At the end of the day, we want to encourage and empower doctors, especially GPs, to include a physical activity or exercise assessment as part of their interaction with every patient.”

Emergency doctor, Dr Ash Bowden, says that he always makes a point of counselling his patients on the benefits of exercise.

“If more focus was placed on prevention in medicine, especially with free tools like exercise, we could see fewer mental health presentations, fewer cardiorespiratory complications, fewer elderly falls, fewer cancers and fewer cancer-related complications (amongst so much else).”

“Unlike medication, exercise should be taken by everyone; it can be ‘dosed’ and modified for anyone and it’ll help no matter the illness. I’ll focus my enthusiasm on something else when you can show me it’s better than this,” adds Dr Bowden.

For patients living with chronic conditions, mental health issues, cancer, chronic pain and a wide range of other complications, it’s crucial that doctors also understand the importance of referring to the right exercise professional.

“Accredited Exercise Physiologists are the experts of exercise and are the best placed allied health professionals for prescribing exercise to those living with chronic conditions. They are university-qualified to prescribe exercise as medicine to anyone who is living with a chronic health condition, which currently, is approximately half of all Australians,” explains Anita.

“A referral from a doctor or GP is one of the easiest ways for Australians to gain subsidised access to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist.”

Exercise and physical activity are crucial for maintaining physical and mental health and play a vital role in reducing the disease burden in Australia.

“It’s our hope that by helping to educate medical professionals, more Australians wills have access to the right advice when it comes to moving more,” adds Anita.

To find out more about Exercise Right for Doctors, as well as access the range of free education and resources, visit the Exercise Right website.

All media enquiries can be directed to