By Drs. Moiz Moghal and Natasha Jones
There is rising awareness that physical inactivity is a major health problem. Momentum is gathering at a local level to try to reverse this trend. An exercise prescription or a brief intervention on its own is not enough. The challenge is to integrate an exercise medicine service with proactive partners who can successfully deliver the tools required to change behaviour to an activated community.
In Oxfordshire, the Department of Sport & Exercise Medicine at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust in a unique collaboration with AgeUK Oxfordshire, have been commissioned by the PCT to develop a service to facilitate individualised exercise prescription and signposting for local opportunities to be active. This is targeting people over the age of 50 years and has been achieved through the development of an innovative website called Generation Games which is due to launch next month.
Generation Games is designed to be used by the individual or by the healthcare professional. It will take the user through PAR-Q and GPPAQ before asking about individual barriers to exercise. Following this, the individual will be given a personalised exercise prescription or will be advised to see their GP to ensure that it is safe for them to exercise. Once this has been confirmed, they will be given a detailed list of all opportunities to be active in their local area. The options will be widespread ranging from seated exercise to Nordic Walks to team sports. Working with a well established partner such as AgeUK Oxfordshire will help us to access hard to reach groups, in particular the lonely and isolated. Even a lack of IT access or knowledge is not a barrier as this service can also be accessed via local AgeUK Oxfordshire branches or by phone.
A key part of this project will be to get local healthcare professionals to use the service. We know that practitioners in primary care are best placed to deliver physical activity guidance (1). As such, we hope to visit GP practices across the county to spread the word and to demonstrate the website. The website also provides a useful learning resource regarding the role of physical activity in chronic disease and also references some key papers related to this topic. We hope that this will also provide valuable feedback in order to allow us to continually improve the service. The same will be done using patient focus groups through AgeUK Oxfordshire. We hope to establish firm links with well-established rehabilitation services but also to give access to other specialist departments whose patients we know may benefit, such as cancer and mental health services.
We believe that the message of the benefits of physical activity speaks for itself. In the development of Generation Games we hope that we have made it as easy and as safe as possible for the individual or the healthcare professional in Oxfordshire to access an exercise prescription and to find interesting and fun local activities that will keep them motivated to be active.
Please feel free to access the website on:
Dr Moiz Moghal is a Specialist Registrar Sport & Exercise Medicine, Oxford Deanery
Dr Natasha Jones is a Consultant in Sport & Exercise Medicine, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust
Dr James Thing co-ordinates “Sport and Exercise Medicine: The UK trainee perspective” monthly blog series.
1. Green prescriptions: attitudes and perceptions of general practitioners towards prescribing exercise. British Journal of General Practice, 1997, 47, 567-569.