A Prescription for Exercise


Pulse. Body temperature. Breathing rate. Blood pressure. These four vital signs are key indicators of global health. But, there’s a new vital sign that’s already changing the face of global healthcare. When did your doctor last ask you this question before prescribing you medication: How much you do you exercise?

Globally, one in four adults is not active enough and more than 80 percent of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active. Multiple studies have highlighted insufficient physical activity as a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

A British Heart Foundation study reported that levels of sedentary behavior remain stubbornly high and are likely to be causing as many deaths as smoking. Linked to poor lifestyle choices, from poor nutrition to activity levels, these highly preventable illnesses kill more than 30 million people annually.

The benefits of exercise are increasingly impressive. The American Heart Association captures the power of exercise in a recent description of the growing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence that proves exercise is potentially a stronger predictor of mortality than established risk factors (such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and type two diabetes). And the addition of cardiorespiratory fitness to these risk factors significantly improves their outcomes.

So what if doctors were incented to get healthier? What impact could there be on patients?

According to Discovery, Vitality’s parent company, data gathered throughout its 20-year history, shows that one or two healthy behavior changes not only triggers further healthy changes, but also has a positive impact on a person’s closest network – whether it consists of family, friends or colleagues. The idea is that the doctors’ rooms could be another entry point to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Additionally, we know that healthier doctors are more productive, deliver better quality of care and may be more effective at prescribing wellness.

Recently, Discovery launched Vitality Active Rewards for Doctors, an incentive program aimed at encouraging doctors to be healthier. Modeled on the Vitality Active Rewards program, it will reward doctors for taking care of their own health.

While not available in the United States, we’ll be watching closely to see how the program develops.


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