Doctors to prescribe walking and cycling to boost nation's wellbeing

Doctors will prescribe walking and cycling to beat heart disease and boost nation’s wellbeing

  • Doctors to prescribe exercise in hope it will lower cancer and heart disease rates
  • ‘Social prescriptions’ pilot scheme aims to help NHS burden and reduce traffic 
  • Department for Transport has given 11 local authorities total of £12.7million
  • Plans include all-ability cycling tasters and exercise mental health groups 
  • They will run until 2025 in areas including Bath, Bradford, Cornwall, and Leeds

Doctors will soon be telling patients to ‘get on your bike’ or ‘take a hike’ as cycling and walking are to be prescribed by GPs in a health improvement drive announced today. 

The pilot scheme to be rolled out later this year aims to cut rates of cancer and heart disease by encouraging people to take more exercise. 

It is also hoped it will ease the burden on the NHS, as well as reduce congestion on the roads as people stop using their cars for short journeys. 

The ‘social prescriptions’ pilot scheme, coming in later this year, aims to help reduce heart disease and cancer rates

The government-backed scheme also hopes to reduce congestion on the roads as people stop using their cars for short journeys

The Department for Transport said £12.7million has been given to 11 local authorities across England to fund the ‘social prescriptions’, as well as projects such as adult cycle training, walking groups and interest free bike loans. 

Prescriptions will also include exercises for wheelchair or mobility scooter users, the department said. 

Schemes such as all-ability cycling taster days and exercise mental health groups will also be introduced, it added. 

The Government said authorities must improve infrastructure alongside the trials so that people feel safe undertaking the activities. 

The pilots will run until 2025 in Bath and north-east Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire. 

The outcomes of the prescriptions will be monitored to assess the impact of these activities on individuals’ health, such as reduced GP appointments and reliance on medication. 

GP prescriptions in the scheme will also include exercises for wheelchair or mobility scooter users, the Department for Transport said

The pilots will run until 2025 in Bath and north-east Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk and Staffordshire

The Department for Transport said several government departments and agencies – including NHS England, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, Sport England, National Academy for Social Prescribing, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Health and Social Care – are working together on the project. 

Walking and cycling minister Trudy Harrison said the activities have ‘so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion on our busiest streets.’

She added: ‘It also has an enormous positive impact on physical and mental health, which is why we have funded these projects which will get people across the country moving and ease the burden on our NHS.’ 

Walking and cycling minister Trudy Harrison said the activities have ‘so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion’

Among the scheme’s main backers is former Olympic gold medal cyclist Chris Boardman, who is now commissioner of National Active Travel, an executive agency set up by the Government to improve the UK’s cycling and walking infrastructure. 

He said: ‘As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips. 

‘Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings. 

‘This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.’ 

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘Getting active is hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health, helping reduce stress and ward off other illness such as heart disease and obesity. 

‘The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country.’ 

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