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Physical activity benefits outweigh 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 long-term health conditions. The findings offer guidance for healthcare professionals that physical activity can be used to manage long-term health conditions and lead to more people being encouraged to become active.

A quarter of the population in England live with long-term health conditions, and those in this category are twice as likely to be inactive, despite evidence that being active can help manage many conditions. Fears that physical activity may exacerbate symptoms, or the necessity of getting the doctor’s clearance prior to increasing activity levels have been identified as barriers to increasing physical activity. 

The  new consensus statement aims to dismantle these barriers by addressing safety considerations and bridging the gap between evidence, clinical and public health guidelines, and people’s experience.

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.