It’s a prescription like no other. It should be taken at least once daily and restocked as often as necessary – it has unlimited refills. It can protect your joints; prevent falls, premature death, cardiovascular disease, ischemic stroke, type 2 diabetes, some colon and breast cancers, and even depression (Carlson et al., 2015). There are no side effects to its use and it is so powerful at maintaining and improving health that it can add years to life. It may be the key to why users not only survive longer but thrive in later life. Millions of annual deaths could be averted by early intervention and proactive use of this cure (Sundberg, 2016). In older adults its use could result in significant savings in healthcare spending within 2 years of commencing it (Martinson et al., 2003), and in our youngest It can produce transformational changes in fitness levels, mental, social, emotional health and wellbeing (Murray et al., 2016). Increasing the use of this treatment in the Irish population could ultimately result in annual saving of between €67.5 – 135 million – enough to fund Irish Water! A British study reported that non adherence to this intervention was directly responsible for an approximated cost to the British National Health Service of at least £1.06 billion (Allender et al., 2007). We should all be on it! But what is it?
Only 3 out of 10 adults in Ireland appear to use this treatment, and for non users this can have major consequences for their health and quality of life. In addition, just 19% of primary school children and 12% of secondary school pupils get an adequate prescription to fulfil their needs. This is unfair, unjust and dangerous! Why is this treatment being withheld if it is so effective? In previous generations the sick patient was traditionally a passive spectator in the management of their own healthcare. But fortunately most of us are now active participants in the organization of our health. The relationship between the client and healthcare worker has changed from one of being a submissive participant to a point where patients adopt an informed, intelligent position and have become active consumers in the management of their health (Longtin et al., 2010).
So surely now we can demand a treatment like this. It is our right to have access to a prescription that can have such a dramatic effect on our overall health and wellbeing. But industrial, technological and social progress is considerably reducing the use of this medicine (Matthews et al., 2012). When compared to our parents and grandparents, my generation work and live in surroundings that discourage its usage (Owen et al., 2010). Well in fact you can self prescribe, there is usually no need to attend a health professional and it can be free depending on your drug of choice. There are options – loads of them. But there is a time commitment – adults need 30 minutes on moderate effort for 5 days a week, whilst for children (2-18 years) it will take a 60 minute vigorous effort every day (Haskell et al., 2007) …… Its exercise!
Allender S, Foster C, Scarborough P & Rayner M. (2007). The burden of physical activity-related ill health in the UK. J Epidemiol Community Health 61, 344-348.
Carlson SA, Fulton JE, Pratt M, Yang Z & Adams EK. (2015). Inadequate physical activity and health care expenditures in the United States. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 57, 315-323.
Haskell WL, Lee IM, Pate RR, Powell KE, Blair SN, Franklin BA, Macera CA, Heath GW, Thompson PD & Bauman A. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39, 1423-1434.
Longtin Y, Sax H, Leape LL, Sheridan SE, Donaldson L & Pittet D. (2010). Patient participation: current knowledge and applicability to patient safety. Mayo Clin Proc 85, 53-62.
Martinson BC, Crain AL, Pronk NP, O’Connor PJ & Maciosek MV. (2003). Changes in physical activity and short-term changes in health care charges: a prospective cohort study of older adults. Prev Med 37, 319-326.
Matthews CE, George SM, Moore SC, Bowles HR, Blair A, Park Y, Troiano RP, Hollenbeck A & Schatzkin A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. Am J Clin Nutr 95, 437-445.
Murray A, Calderwood C, O’Connor N & Mutrie N. (2016). Scotland’s progress in putting policy about physical activity into practice. Br J Sports Med 50, 320-321.
Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE & Dunstan DW. (2010). Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 38, 105-113.
Sundberg CJ. (2016). Physical activity: what is already being done and how we can avert 1 million deaths annually in future. Br J Sports Med 50, 319.