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Green prescriptions ‘miracle cure’ for obesity, say councils

09 September 2016

Doctors prescribing exercise outdoors would help tackle obesity, council chiefs say

The Local Government Association (LGA) has urged the Government to introduce 'green prescriptions' - to encourage people to get outdoors and take part in physical activity.

The scheme has been running in New Zealand since 1998 and results show that 72% of respondents noticed positive changes to their health and more than half (51%) felt stronger and fitter.

The prescriptions consist of a list of physical activity goals that overweight and obese people can aim for. They are sent to a third person who provides encouragement and support to the patient. Their progress is then reported back to their GP.

Research published in the British Medical Journal found that a green prescription can improve a patient's quality of life over 12 months and help people live longer, healthier lives.

Some GPs are already using similar scheme to encourage patients to exercise and enjoy the great outdoors, such as Dartmoor and Exmoor.

LGA's community wellbeing portfolio holder, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: "Not every visit to a GP is necessarily a medical one. By writing formal prescriptions for exercise, it would encourage people to do more physical activity.

"The green prescription model is something that could help to tackle major health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. There are already some good examples where this is being piloted in the UK, and it is something we should consider on a nationwide basis."

Steven Ward, ukactive executive director, said: "Britain is in the grip of a cradle to grave physical inactivity crisis and the great outdoors is a fantastic gateway for getting people moving again.

"Physical activity has been hailed as a miracle cure which can help to treat and prevent more than 20 lifestyle-related diseases and if GPs were to prescribe this it would bring huge benefits to people's physical and mental health."

The Parks Alliance (TPA) has previously called on the Government to commission clinical trials into how 'green prescriptions' can help improve public health.