The Future of Exercise Referral

HFE Tutor with student
Tutor with student

In 2010, the Department of Health published a White Paper titled ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’, which outlined the government’s spending plans in the area of public health. One of the government’s key pledges in this document was to remove the red tape and bureaucracy surrounding the funding of public health initiatives, and to make access to this funding more accessible for those involved. “For the first time in a generation, central Government will not hold all the purse strings. The majority of public health services will be commissioned by Local Authorities from their ring-fenced budget, or by the NHS, all funded from Public Health England’s new public health budget.”

The proposed changes to the allocation of government funds are likely to pave the way for more community-based exercise referral schemes designed to initiate long-term lifestyle changes in their locality, particularly in the area of exercise and physical activity. As Benjamin Franklin so eloquently put it, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. If the current public health trend is to be reversed and the long-term health of the nation is to be improved, then exercise and physical activity levels must certainly increase in order to curb the onset of chronic illness and disease. Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers possessing the ‘specialist’ knowledge and skills to deal with clients suffering from specific controlled conditions will clearly play an integral role in this process.

The following range of medical conditions represents some of the more common conditions that patients involved in exercise referral schemes will present. In most cases, patients will have more than one condition, so the exercise referral instructor will need to work with healthcare professionals to explore ways to adapt exercise and physical activity programmes to meet the specific needs of the client.

Cardiovascular Conditions

  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia

Respiratory Conditions

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Neuromuscular Conditions

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Musculoskeletal Conditions

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Simple mechanical back pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spondylosis

Psychological/Mental Health Conditions

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

Exercise referral instructors are likely to consult with clients suffering from more than one controlled medical condition, and as such, will need to consider the wider range of risks associated with participation in exercise and physical activity. In these circumstances, exercise referral instructors should prioritise the medical conditions presented in order of risk; for example, cardiovascular conditions, like hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, must take priority over musculoskeletal conditions, like back pain.

Patients suffering from multiple conditions are also likely to be taking a wider range of prescription medications, so it would be necessary to determine the exact side effects of each of these drugs before prescribing any exercise.

If you want to learn more about Exercise/GP referral, and how you can become involved, take a look at the CYQ Level 3 Certificate in Exercise Referral for Clients with Specific Controlled Conditions.

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