Government responds to committee’s challenges on sports and exercise medicine

In a week when we’ve witnessed the quite astonishing feat of a man leaping from space (then landing on his feet and walking, surely redefining ‘cool’), my own physical exertions seem, well, rather poor. I have a sudden rush of sympathy for the lad sitting next to the young Isaac Newton when he does the thing with the apple and exclaims that he has discovered gravity; “oh… I’ve just eaten mine”.

Anyhow, as an elf who is interested in both exercise and top notch health research, preferably together, I was pleased to see that the UK government’s response to the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committe inquiry into sport and exercise science and medicine is now available, set out in a Command Paper.

The government welcomes the Committee’s report and its focus on the quality and application of sports and exercise science and medicine and sets out in the paper how it is

  • targeting investment to support the translation of biomedical research
  • providing £30 million of funding to develop the country’s first National Centre of Excellence for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) to provide a strong evidence base for clinical best practice in relation to sport, exercise and health

The government:

  • agrees that there is an opportunity for the NCSEM to provide a strategic lead and will work closely with the NCSEM on how the Centre will be sustainable
  • agrees with the Committee’s emphasis upon the role of health professionals in promoting physical activity to their patients and the exciting potential for the prescription of exercise to manage chronic conditions subject to the evidence
  • is committed to the dissemination of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines for physical activity to professionals and the public

‘Potential’ and ‘subject to the evidence’ are very important parts of the second point and we’ll be keeping a sharp eye on the evidence around the effectiveness of exercise referral schemes. Back in the summer I blogged about ‘Exercise for Life’, the report of the Sport and Exercise Medicine Committee Working Party of the Royal College of Physicians, which found that health professionals may lack knowledge about the benefits of exercise and also practical skills in the prescription of exercise to patients. In the Command Paper, there are recommendations around training for health professionals and assuring the quality of service provided by exercise professionals, as well as a call to keep relevant guidelines up to date to take account of new evidence. The government states that it is for NICE, as an independent body, to decide whether and when it will update its guidance, but it signals that NICE will be updating its guidance on exercise referral schemes and that the new guidance ‘will provide robust, evidence-based advice on the use of exercise referral schemes to increase physical activity’.

You can download the Command Paper from the link below. As for me, I’m off to indulge in a nice, tame bit of exercise now, perhaps jogging through the woodland (I’m kinda off cycling this week). It might not be brave or exciting, but I reckon it’ll be doing me some good without risking my blood boiling, my lungs exploding or my eyeballs being sucked out and ricocheting off the nearest tree, which has got to be a good thing.


Department of Health. Response to the inquiry into sport and exercise science and medicine published. 16 October, 2012

Government Response to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology Report of Session 2012-13“Sport and exercise science and medicine: building on the Olympic legacy to improve the nation’s health” [PDF] October 2012

Royal College of Physicians. Exercise for life: physical activity in health and disease [PDF]. London: RCP, 2012.

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Sarah Chapman

My name is Sarah Chapman. I have worked on systematic reviews and other types of research in many areas of health for the past 17 years, for the Cochrane Collaboration and for several UK higher education institutions including the University of Oxford and the Royal College of Nursing Institute. I also have a background in nursing and in the study of the History of Medicine.

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