Why physical activity should be front and centre in in the war against obesity

Personal health and fitness are back on the political agenda following the recent release of the Government’s obesity strategy. Whilst this is undoubtedly much needed particularly in light of Covid-19, what we are still lacking is a fundamental change to the way physical activity is viewed in terms of how it can have a major impact on the nation’s health.

We spoke to Carron Manning, Founder of EXi, to find out:

  • The current state of our nation’s health
  • How their pioneering App, which creates personalised exercise prescription programmes, is aiming to provide a much-needed solution for healthcare professionals
  • And the challenges that lie ahead 

Can you paint a picture of where are we currently at with regards to the nation’s health?

We know that the UK is not active enough – around 40% of the UK population is not meeting the recommended levels of activity. We need to get them moving. We also know that around 85% of people aren’t engaged with the fitness industry so there’s a lot of work to do.

Post-Covid, the figures haven’t been great. We are slightly less active now than before based on the data released by Fitbit and Garmin. Step counts have been reduced and levels are down. What’s especially worrying, is those people who probably need to be more physically active are more likely to be those people who have been shielding. I think we’ll really notice the effects of this in the next year or so.

Tackling the health crisis is complex. How much damage is reversible?

There is evidence that physical activity can make the biggest difference. For example, in the UK, nearly 10% of people have Type 2 Diabetes – 58% of this can be reversed by lifestyle changes. Physical activity can have a profound effect on things like high blood pressure, hypertension, depression, pain and they often outperform drugs when they’re put side by side in clinical trials. The Dept of Health recognize this and they actually recommend activity as an intervention, but it’s currently not happening.

We can transform many areas of chronic disease, but the message isn’t coming through at the point of care. We need to make people more aware that they can make this difference in their health. People need to recognize the risks of being sedentary because they don’t associate their current lifestyle with what they’ll be facing ten years down the line.

What kind of impact can EXi have on obesity?

We know that physical activity can help to maintain weight loss. Diet is important, but a person is more likely to keep the weight off if they are also active. Obesity never used to be a chronic disease, but it’s been reclassified in the last few years. I think it’s great the Government are looking at obesity and obviously it’s strongly related to poor outcomes in Covid. If you just lose weight, but don’t do physical activity, you’re unlikely to have the protective aspects against diseases in the same way that you’d have if you’re active. So you shouldn’t just be looking at diet to ensure a long, healthy life.

What are the challenges for EXi?

The biggest problem is changing the mindset – that prescribed exercise should be as important as drugs and both should be delivered at the same time. Exercise is seen as a nice thing to have – it’s perceived as a leisure activity and we want to change the concept of exercise. With young people the motivation is all too often body image and people don’t associate exercise with health. I think to a degree we’re also a victim of our success. It’s become easier to pop a pill than get out and move. We do have to go back to basics and remind ourselves that our bodies were designed to move. Drugs can never replicate the same profound physiological effects that exercise has on the body, and that’s exactly why we need to get more people being more active, more often.

EXi is free to download from the App Store and Google Play. Users start on a 12-week initial activity programme but can continue to use the service indefinitely after this. A premium version will launch from 1st September and will include extra fitness content at low, moderate and high intensity as well as extra features, and audio guided content, including guided mindfulness walking interventions, educational podcasts and motivational content to support outdoors walking activities. For more information and to access the digital health programme, visit www.exi.life .


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