With the London Olympics approaching, a new study looks at whether individuals participation in sports and exercise improves the health of nations.
Just two more days until the Games begin! The 2012 London Summer Olympics begin on Friday, July 27. Whether you’re an athlete, weekend warrior, or couch spectator, watching Olympic athletes compete against the best in their respective sports, is inspiring.
Can the Olympics motivate us?
The organizers of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games are the first to set measurable goals for achieving a socioeconomic legacy. One of their goals included motivating 2 million Brits to become more active by 2012.
A BMC Medicine article states, “Delivering a broad and sustained legacy of physical activity and health from the London 2012 Games is an ambitious target, especially since there is no evidence that previous Games have been successful in this respect. Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that increases in physical activity participation in the lead up to London 2012 have been glacial at best.”
UBC sports medicine physician and researcher Karim Khan and a host of international colleagues recently published a paper in the Lancet. In it, they examine whether individuals’ participation in sports and exercise improves the health of countries as a whole.
Exercise as the fifth vital sign
After reviewing studies on sports and exercise participation around the world, they concluded that exercise should be classified as “the fifth vital sign.” Health care practitioners should be encouraged to question their patients during each visit about the amount of time they spend exercising and record this information in patients’ charts, the same as they would a blood pressure reading.
Exercise advice and referrals
Researchers also suggest health care practitioners play an active role in dispensing exercise advice, similar to the role they play in helping patients quit smoking. In Sweden and New Zealand primary care physicians routinely refer patients to sport and exercise facilities.
The researchers support “changes in systems for delivery of medical care so that physical activity counselling and referral are expected, documented, and reimbursed.”
Lack of participation
Low levels of fitness are a better predictor of mortality than obesity or hypertension. Yet despite the interest in sport that’s generated by events such as the Olympics, the study concludes that not enough people participate in sports and exercise to improve health on a national level.
Perhaps it’s time to get moving!