How do you talk to your patients about exercise?
It can be a tricky conversation to navigate – while you’re both aware of the health benefits behind regular exercise, it can be difficult to find the right words to encourage them to get more active.
For some people, the world of exercise is a daunting place to explore. For others, there may be barriers preventing them from becoming as physically active as they would like to be.
Here at Be Healthy Bucks, we understand that starting – and sticking to – healthy lifestyle habits take time. We want to talk to you about exercise prescription, and how it can help your patients.
What is exercise prescription?
Firstly, what do we mean when we say, ‘exercise prescription’?
Essentially, exercise prescription is a plan of fitness activities, designed for a specific purpose. The activity and purpose will vary from person to person. These prescriptions are growing in popularity across the UK, with the government investing in exercise prescriptions across the nation.
In the above report, Minister for Health, 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.”
How can I prescribe exercise?
The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK (FSEM) produced the FSEM UK Medical Student Exercise Prescription Booklet, which covers a comprehensive history of exercise and its benefits. Alongside research and examples of successful case studies.
We want to highlight the FITT Principle, which can help you view exercise as a medication. It can help you prescribe physical activity with a focus on creating long-lasting changes.
F – Frequency – how many times a week will the patient do physical activity?
I – Intensity – the level of fitness required to do the activity.
T – Time – how long will the patient do the exercise for?
T – Type – what type of exercise are they doing? I.e. walking, stretching, or balance training.
It’s important to listen to the needs of your patient, assess risk of harm, and find ways of moving which are right for them. At Be Healthy Bucks, we’re all about helping people make long-lasting lifestyle changes that work for them. You can refer a patient today to help them get started.
What’s right for your patient?
Sometimes patients think of exercise solely as joining a gym, or regularly going out running. However, there’s a wide array of activities they can try. This includes walking, housework, and gardening. Anything that gets them moving more is encouraged.
When prescribing exercise, or suggesting someone try physical activities, it’s important to remember that each person has a unique set of circumstances. What works for one of your patients, won’t be suitable for another.
One of the most important things to remember is encouraging your patient to find something they enjoy doing. If they’re aiming to create a new, long-lasting habit, it needs to be an activity they like, otherwise they’re unlikely to stick to it.
You can also help to manage their expectations. The NHS physical activity guidelines recommend that adults aged between 19-64 do some form of physical activity daily. It also suggests 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.
However, this simply isn’t feasible for some people. It isn’t just about their physical abilities, but their time, finances and location. Someone can’t be expected to go from not doing any exercise to finding 150 minutes in a week.
Making small changes over time can make a big difference. Recent studies have shown that doing 11 minutes of daily exercise can help a person to improve their health and reduce the chance of developing heart disease or having a stroke.
Be positive and reassuring with your patient on their physical activity journey. Any progress is still progress.
A great way of combining physical activity your patient wants to do and turning it into a new habit is setting SMART goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.
You can talk to your patient about what they’re hoping to achieve with their exercise, and what would their preferred methods be. For instance, you may have someone who wants to lose weight, and wants to do this by starting at home workouts.
Their goals are not about what they want to do for the next couple of weeks, but what they can see themselves doing for years.
Mental health benefits
When talking about physical activity, it’s also worth exploring the ways it can help your patient’s mental health. As we know, looking after your physical health and mental health can go hand in hand.
According to Mind, various studies show the positive impact physical activity can have on mental health. Physical activity releases endorphins, which can help give your patients more energy. Plus, by exercising during the day, it can help to improve their sleep pattern.
Physical activity also releases cortisol, which helps manages stress. Doing exercise can help give your patient something to focus on. Some people like to use exercise as a positive coping strategy if they’re going through a hard time.
The team at Be Healthy Bucks understand how to help people create long-lasting habits. We’re here to help your patient start their health journey and make changes that work for them and their lifestyle.
We just need a couple minutes of your time to help us get started. Fill out our referral form today and help your patient reach their health goals.