Fit doctors more likely to have healthy patients

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Outdoor cross-country running in summer sunshine concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle

Doctors are being encouraged to get active‚ and to prescribe exercise to their patients on a script. The Times reports that this call has come after research conducted by Discovery Vitality showed that healthier doctors have patients with lower body mass indexes (weight). This in turn has prompted the launch of a new reward programme for doctors.

Doctors who exercise more are being offered incentives including a 50% discount for an Cardio-check analyser that helps them measure fitness in patients‚ free smoothies and discounts for fitness tracking including the Apple Watch.

The report says South Africa is seeing a skyrocketing increase in lifestyle diseases.

Discovery Health Medical Scheme found that from 2010 to 2015 there was 43% increase in cancer and a 40% increase in diabetes among its medical aid members. Statistics South Africa also recently reported that lifestyle diseases including diabetes‚ heart disease‚ lung disease‚ stroke and some cancers now kill more people South Africans than the two main infectious diseases‚ TB and HIV‚ combined.

David Jankelow‚ from the SA Heart Foundation‚ believes that exercise may be more effective than medicine in preventing disease. “We as clinicians have to be much stronger from an advocacy point of view. Exercise may be more important than medicine when it comes to preventing and sustaining health.”

Soweto GP Dr Elijah Nkosi‚ speaking at the Vitality Reward launch said: “I have seen such positive outcomes from prescribing exercise to my patients and tailoring it to their needs. They get very involved in walking and running events and some are even able to come off their medication”.

“The message I pass on to patients is that getting your sleep‚ eating and exercise right is critical for health‚” Nkosi said. “If you don’t use your muscles you lose them…” Jankelow recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise a week.

Clinical endocrinologist and spokesperson for the Healthy Living Alliance‚ Dr Sundeep Ruder‚ said: “What we are now discovering is the science behind how genes and how cells react to movement and how most national communicable diseases are preventable. Exercise improves weight‚ energy‚ cognitive function wellbeing scores‚ and these are all linked to preventing lifestyle disease.”

Head of Vitality Wellness Craig Nossel said: “It’s staggering that one of the most powerful antidotes to the devastating tsunami of chronic diseases of lifestyle is as astoundingly simple as doctors prescribing and monitoring their patients’ physical activity long-term”.

The Times report

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