More exercise is the ‘best medicine to avoid diabetes’

Doctors say increased exercise will bring huge benefits to the NHS in Scotland. Photograph: Getty Images
Doctors say increased exercise will bring huge benefits to the NHS in Scotland. Photograph: Getty Images
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More than 180,000 Scots could be spared diabetes by exercising more, according to medical experts.

Doctors from the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) UK were responding to the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee Preventative Inquiry.

According to 2014 figures, 276,430 Scots have diabetes, with 88 per cent suffering from the type-2 form of the illness and a further 600,000 at “high risk” of the condition due to an increased Body Mass Index and ever-expanding waistlines.

The FSEM wants to raise awareness of the benefits which sport and exercise medicine can bring to the NHS in Scotland and its preventative agenda.

The faculty, based at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, believes it is uniquely placed to provide skilled services across both exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine and could vastly improve healthcare outcomes for many other common conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer and mental health, through working with existing healthcare teams in the NHS.

Dr Niall Elliott (right), fellow of the FSEM and doctor for both Sportscotland and NHS Tayside, said people were “put off” by the thought of exercise.

He said: “The word ‘exercise’ for a lot of people can put them off, so what we’re keen to emphasise is that living an active life is really important.

“We know through scientific evidence that doing a certain amount of physical activity in your day can have an impact on primary prevention – which is stopping an illness happening.

“The other thing is a secondary preventional treatment which is assisting in treating a particular illness, with the classic examples being things like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“In 2011 the chief medical officers came out with the guidelines of 30 minutes’ exercise per day, five days a week, to the total of 150 minutes in a week of moderate activity that brings you out in a light sweat.

“What we’re now discovering, and has been the rage recently, is that 75 minutes’ high-intensity exercise in a week will also have a beneficial effect.”

Dr Elliott said regular activity also helped cancer patients respond to their treatment.

He added: “Exercise doesn’t necessarily treat things like breast or bowel cancer, but what it does is improve the body’s response to treatments like chemotherapy.

“Patients who are more active have a better response to surgery and have less time in hospital, up to 38 per cent reduction in admission time. We know that in cancers, whilst you respond better to chemotherapy with exercise – your response post-treatment is improved.”

Dr Paul D Jackson, president of the FSEM, said: “There is researched evidence for the effectiveness of physical activity interventions for a whole host of clinical areas across the NHS.

“With risk reductions ranging from 24 to 50 per cent for many common conditions, applying sport and exercise medicine services to prevention strategies will bring vastly improved health and clinical outcomes for many Scots.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government’s vision is of a Scotland where people are more active, more often, and we are investing at school, community and national level.”

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