VHS has joined with fifteen of Scotland’s leading health charities to form a new coalition to increase physical activity levels of people living with long term conditions. 24% of Scotland’s population – over 1 million people – live with long term conditions, such as arthritis or heart disease. 46% of these people are inactive, a figure two times that of the rest of the population.
Under the banner of Movement for Health and led by the charity Paths for All the new coalition focuses on the role of physical activity in preventing many common diseases and improving the health and wellbeing of people living with health conditions. Members include Breast Cancer Now, Versus Arthritis, Parkinson’s UK, Diabetes Scotland, SAMH and Stroke Association Scotland. Together we promote the benefits of people moving more in daily life to improve health, prevent the deterioration of conditions, improve resilience and ease the side effects of treatment.
There is a significant body of research evidencing how physical activity can help us all to lead happier, healthier lives. Being regularly active has been shown to help reduce the risk and manage over 20 chronic conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, mental health problems and arthritis. Physical activity improves not only quality of life, but also communities, productivity and the pressure on our health and social care systems. New evidence shows Covid-19 has brought further barriers to this group being active. A study by Sport England found that 4 in 10 people with a health condition have done less physical activity that normal in lockdown, experienced increased feelings of fear and anxiety, and are worried about leaving their homes.
As we head into a difficult autumn and winter, being active is more important than ever to boost our resilience. There is emerging evidence that even a small increase in physical activity can have a significant positive impact on immune function and the ability to recover from viral illness.
Movement for Health has identified four key areas of work, all with the aim of making it easier for people with long term health conditions to be active. This work will include developing consistent physical activity messages and increasing awareness of the many benefits for society and individuals. They will seek to identify barriers to physical activity and ask for resolutions such as inclusive places and facilities. The coalition will reach out to work with health professionals, and policy makers all with the aim of helping the million people with a health condition to have a better quality of life.
Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing and Dr Gregor Smith, Scotland’s Interim Chief Medical Officer, have endorsed the new coalition, as has Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of Public Health Scotland.
Morna Simpkins, MS Society Scotland director, commented:
“As the days become shorter it is crucial that people with long term conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) are supported to be active. Time and again research has shown that exercise can have many and varied benefits for people’s wellbeing but the restrictions put in place during the pandemic made it more difficult for everyone to stay healthy. Movement for Health will put a focus on this important area of people’s lives as we move into the colder months and beyond to ensure that the social, physical, and mental health of people living with long term conditions isn’t forgotten as disruption continues.”
Jane-Claire Judson, Chief Executive at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland said:
“Being active reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 35% and it can help with managing the impact of chest, heart and stroke conditions – including Covid-19. It is one of the best things that people can do to improve their physical, mental and social wellbeing. Through our Hospital to Home service we use physical activity to help people get back to what they love doing. In some cases that can be something as simple as getting out to walk in the garden or go to the shops. We need to make sure that everyone across Scotland gets the support they need to live their lives to the full. That is why we are supporting Movement for Health; we want people to do more than survive, we want them to really live.”
Contact Movement for Health: email