Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Helping people with long-term conditions through physical activity

by Emma Hutchins, Physical Activity and Health Influencing Manager at Richmond Group of Charities

Emma Hutchins, Physical Activity and Health Influencing Manager at Richmond Group of Charities43% of the adult population in England live with one or more health conditions, and they are twice as likely to be inactive. Physical activity can make a huge difference to the self-management of conditions, to improving overall health and well-being, to helping people live well and thrive and to reducing morbidity and mortality. 64% of people with long-term health conditions would like to be more physically active, but they need your support to do so.

Previous surveys have shown that when pharmacists talk about physical activity with the public, it works! In a partnership between We Are Undefeatable and Public Health England, a sample of mostly pharmacies found that over three-quarters of the people pharmacists had spoken to about physical activity reported an intention to become more active.

Here are our top tips to help you have those personalised conversations:

Talk about physical activity

Check out Moving Medicine; this is the ultimate resource to help health professionals integrate physical activity conversations into routine clinical care in as little as one minute. Planting the idea and showing how others in similar situations stay and become active can be the first step to starting people on their journey. 

Remember people value your advice

Our research shows that the NHS and health professionals are the most trusted source of advice on physical activity, especially for people with long-term conditions who might need a bit of reassurance.

Hearing from health professionals makes a huge difference; after a conversation about physical activity, 25% of people with long-term conditions took action to become more active and 55% thought more about it. Pharmacists have an important role to play in giving valuable advice.

Know that physical activity is safe

A barrier can often be a concern that physical activity isn’t safe for people with long-term conditions. In response, the Faculty for Sport and Exercise Medicine published a Medical Consensus Statement on Risk, which says that for people with stable conditions, the benefits far outweigh the risks. This empowers health professionals to support people in getting more active and gives people confidence in doing so.

Build activity into daily life

Becoming active can be daunting for many people, so encourage them to start slowly and find an activity that suits them. It doesn’t have to be sport or exercise! Walking with friends, dancing in the kitchen and carrying the shopping home are all small changes to incorporate a little more movement into existing routines.

For inspiration, We Are Undefeatable is a campaign featuring people with long-term conditions sharing their stories of finding activities they enjoy, as well as a host of resources like planners and videos for support.

Last but not least, don’t forget that becoming more active yourself could have benefits for managing your health and well-being. Make the most of the days you feel up to it – every movement counts!

And if you have another five, our resource pack will help you build confidence and understanding of the benefits of physical activity for this audience and what more you can do to help break down barriers.

Read more RPS blogs.


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