GPs should conduct appointments standing up in order to set a good example to patients, a conference of family doctors has heard.
Medics are being urged to “practise what they preach” and use their personal behaviour to provoke discussion about the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.
GPs should also consider cycling to home visits as well as encouraging colleagues to cycle or walk to work so surgery carparks are less crowded with cars, according to experts at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RGCP).
Dr Andrew Boyd, an activity champion at the royal college, said GPs remained “hugely trusted” by patients, yet only around 40 per cent were meeting Government exercise guidelines themselves.
We’re leaders in the community... It’s practising what we preach
Dr Andrew Boyd
“Patients really do notice what we do,” he said. “We’re leaders in the community and if I cycle to their house rather than drive to a home visit they notice it. It’s practising what we preach.”
The Chief Medical Officer recommends people take at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, as well as muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days a week.
However, research indicates significantly fewer than 50 per cent of patients meet this recommended minimum.
Dr Boyd said some doctors are worried about appearing hypocritical by lecturing their patients to take more exercise when they are not active themselves.
But he argued that family doctors should use their status in their communities to promote more healthy lifestyles.
“People say “why are you standing up”, and it starts a conversation - “Did you know that being sedentary all day doubles your risk of diabetes?” he said.
“It’s just a simple thing, you can link those things and get someone when they’re in the frame of mind.
“They’re thinking about their health”
Dr Zoe Williams, also an activity advisor to the RGCP, said some seats in GP waiting rooms should be replaced with exercise bikes.
The call was welcomed by the charity UK Active, a spokesman for whom said GPs were “trusted, they’re believed, so if they model good behaviour that’s a good thing.”
The charity GP surgeries could become the focus for local led walks.