“Walking is the best medicine”
Hippocrates, 470 BC
Adults are more than 20% less active since the 1960s, by 2030 it is predicted we will be 35% less active. This is a shocking statistic.
In my role as a practice nurse, I have been recommending a treatment that has had fantastic health outcomes for patients. Patients with depression have had improved mood, some have lost weight and blood pressure readings have reduced. Overall there have been no bad side effects and it is free to the NHS.
This miracle medicine is physical activity, which is described as the ‘best buy’ in public health by The World Health Organisation.
Physical activity is no longer part of our routine. Some patients prefer a prescription and would rather rely on tablets to improve their health. So what are the benefits of being more active?
Physical activity can reduce blood pressure and can help with better mood in mental health. In diabetes it can help lower Hba1c’s and reduce the risks of some illnesses (the HbA1c test is an important blood test that gives a good indication of how well a person’s diabetes is being controlled).
A few years ago I was bitten by the running bug after never being a very sporty person and I decided to try and share the joy and benefits I had gained through running. In my role as a practice nurse I organised a Couch to 5k for patients at my surgery in Bolton. To ensure easy accessibility it was done at the local Bolton parkrun.
I had spoken to some patients about them wanting to lose weight or improve their diabetes results. I decided to target those patients who had said they wanted to make lifestyle changes. I invited them for a 10 minute consultation and explained they would need an email address and a sense of fun! (they didn’t know at this time about ‘Cruella de Hill’, the steep incline at our local parkrun which they would need to run up twice!).
In fact, I never really mentioned the word run to them. I didn’t want to scare them off, it was to be more of a walk or jog activity.
It was really interesting to discover people’s motivation for getting active. I assumed it was weight-related for most people but that wasn’t the case. One patient predominantly walked, but felt a great sense of achievement by reaching the top of the hill every week less short of breath. Being in a group gave her the confidence to take part in the activity and after the course had finished she felt able to continue walking herself.
Another patient was diabetic and for her the improvement in her diabetic blood results was crucial to her motivation. Participating in a family activity with her children was another person’s motivation and now the mum volunteers regularly at the local junior parkrun while her children run it.
The first day we met on the track and did a warm up together. Three members of staff had also agree to take part so I felt well supported. I enjoyed supporting the patients and encouraging them to keep going around the course. It was good to get to know the patients better and understand their motivations for getting active. Some weeks we walked and ran, and the supportive, friendly Tail Walkers always kept our spirits high.
We did it over eight weeks as it was about encouraging people to start their own activity journey and hopefully giving them a bit of confidence to know they could achieve their goals.
As a nurse I think we should all take advice form the father of medicine, Hippocrates, and prescribe some walking. It really is the best medicine!
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