Physical activity benefits outweigh risks for people with long-term health conditions

Physical activity benefits outweigh risks for people with long-term health conditions

Posted: Wed, 17 Nov 2021 07:00

A new consensus statement from health experts has determined that physical activity is safe – even for people living with symptoms of multiple conditions. The benefits of taking part in physical activity "outweigh the risks" for people with long-term health conditions.

A major review of scientific evidence and expert clinical consensus has found physical activity is safe – even for people living with symptoms of multiple conditions.

The findings offer guidance for healthcare professionals that physical activity can be used to manage the majority of long-term health conditions and lead to more people with long-term health conditions being encouraged to take part in sport and physical activity.

One in four people in England live with a long-term health condition, and those in this group are twice as likely to be inactive, despite evidence that being active can help manage many conditions and reduce the impact and severity of some symptoms. However, there are many barriers to getting active for those living with a long-term health condition – including fears that physical activity may worsen their symptoms, and requirements to gain medical clearance prior to increasing activity levels.

The new consensus statement aims to break down these barriers by clarifying fundamental safety considerations and bridging the gap between evidence, clinical and public health guidelines and people's lived experience. The new consensus statement is a really positive step and will play a vital role in supporting healthcare professionals to empower their patients to get active in a way that is right for them.

There are five impact statements that make up the consensus:

  • For people living with long-term conditions, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks and physical activity is safe, even for people living with symptoms of multiple long-term conditions
  • Despite the risks of serious events being very low, perceived risk is high
  • It's not as easy as just telling someone to move more; person-centred conversations are essential for addressing perceived risk
  • Everybody has their own starting point
  • People should stop and seek medical attention if they experience a dramatic increase in symptoms.

There are eight symptom specific statements to support healthcare professionals to have well informed personalised conversations with patients to effectively address concerns about the impact of increasing activity on their symptoms. For more information visit the Moving Medicine website

Sport England, Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and the Royal College of General Practitioners have worked together to develop these statements, through expert advise about the medical risks of physical activity for all adults, irrespective of age, or living with one or more long-term conditions consensus.

What isn't covered by the statements

The list of medical conditions covered by this consensus statement is not exhaustive. For instance, chronic fatigue syndromes/ME and long Covid-19 were excluded from this study as evidence regarding the risks of physical activity in these conditions is evolving. Existing guidance should be followed for those conditions. For more information about included conditions, please see the British Journal of Sports Medicine's website.

Physical activity benefits outweigh risks for people with long-term health conditions

Tags: Adults

Sport England Logo
Active Partnerships
Youth Sport Trust
Public Health Northamptonshire
Activity Alliance Logo