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Exercise and Health by Dr Jim Walker

August 18, 2012 in Medicine, News, Regular Updates

Is exercise good for you? ‘The Lancet’ medical journal advised caution in the nineteenth century, when a previous wave of bicycle mania gripped the country, and warned of the risks of causing a hernia:

The exercise, like all gymnastic feats, requires for safety that it should be carefully regulated, and that a high rate of speed should only be gradually acquired, and that great efforts should be studiously avoided…the most ardent velocipede riders do not recommend it with any earnestness to those who have passed 40 years.

                                (Lancet, May 1869)

Back to the present; and a 2012 study in ‘The Lancet’ looks at the effect of physical inactivity on major long-term illnesses, and estimates how much of this effect could be avoided if inactive people became active.

The study group reckons that across the world physical inactivity causes around 6% of the ill-health due to coronary heart disease, 7% of type 2 diabetes, 10% of breast cancer, and 10% of colon cancer. Inactivity causes 9% of premature deaths (varying from 5·1% to 12·5% according to the country in question). Using 2008 figures as an example, this would mean over 5·3 million of the 57 million deaths worldwide would be preventable by inactive individuals becoming active. A less ambitious aim would be to decrease inactivity by 25%, which would still avert more than 1·3 million deaths per year.

So physical inactivity is a major form of unhealthy behaviour worldwide. Smoking and inactivity kill a similar number of people (although the numbers of inactive people greatly exceed the numbers of smokers, making smoking more risky).

Overall, it is recommended that adults do 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling or gardening, each week. But can encouragement alone yield positive results – in other words, does promoting a more active lifestyle have a lasting effect?

Yes – according to a recentUKstudy in the ‘British Medical Journal’. Researchers gathered together data from several trials where the not-so active – so-called “sedentary adults” – were encouraged to undertake physical activity in primary care settings. Results showed that this simple promotion “significantly improves self-reported physical activity levels over at least 12 months”.  Trials going beyond the 12 months cited are scarce, so better long-term data would be needed to draw conclusions about how long the effects last. More trials are needed!

Meanwhile, back to those velocipedes….



Effect of physical inactivity on major non-communicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. The Lancet 2012; Vol 380: p 219 – 229 (21 July 2012)

Effectiveness of physical activity promotion based in primary care. British Medical Journal 2012;344:e1389 (26 March 2012)

Further Reading

Prescribing exercise in primary care. British Medical Journal 2011; Vol 343: d4141 (15 July 2011)

World Health Organisation: Global Physical Activity plan (2010). See


Written by FunMeFit member Dr Jim Walker, August 2012.


PING! Table Tennis Fun in Sheffield

August 1, 2012 in News, Regular Updates, Uncategorized

There aren’t many of us who could walk passed a table tennis table with two bats and a ball in the middle of Sheffield town centre.

PING! Sheffield are responsible for the excellent idea of putting up random tables around the city and seeing how people react. From what FunMeFit saw, they were going down well with people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds queuing up to have a play.

It was great to see so many different people who were out shopping get involved in sport – the fact that it was a free opportunity clearly helped the situation. Just a bit of unexpected fun and exercise – a great way to bring a community together.

Matt from FunMeFit (a table tennis enthusiast) gave a group of Malaysian students a game to remember and it definitely got everyone in the mood for some Olympic action!

Here’s the evidence:


PING! Sheffield are a member of FunMeFit – Find them @pingsheffield