In this weekend’s Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper), there was an article on the use of new technology for general practitioners in order to make use of exercise as medicine in their practice.
In the future, your trip to the general practitioner might be somewhat different from how it is today. Picture seeing your doctor with pains in your neck and back, and instead of getting a prescription, you are asked when you last went for a walk or did a training session.
The health benefits of exercise are indisputable, and there is substantial scientific evidence showing inactivity as an important cause of death and disability worldwide. Regular physical activity has been shown to be a well-established preventive strategy for 26 chronic diseases. Only in Norway, if everyone who is not currently following the Norwegian Health Directorate’s advice on exercise changed that, the yearly welfare gains would amount to ca. NOK 239 billion.
Unfortunately, we know that people think they are more active than they actually are, and that many over report their activity levels. Studies have shown that as few as 20-30% of Norwegians actually meet the given recommendations, which stipulates at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity for adults.
Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative working to promote exercise as medicine for health personnel. Mona Kjeldsberg is a general practitioner and researcher at the University of Oslo and Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sports and she sits on the board of EIM Norway. She emphasizes that exercise as medicine is relevant for all diseases, except for patients who have recently undergone surgery, have unresolved heart problems or infections with fever.
Recently, the Gjensidige Foundation (the largest foundation in Norway) gave NOK 4,7 million in support to EIM to develop monitoring systems for physical activity that can function together with the clinicians electronic journal and follow-up systems. This will lead to the use of activity monitors as a tool in the follow-up of patients in the future.
One of the funded EIM projects aims to develop an application that is compatible with all journal systems. The idea is that the patient can register information about their activity either on their cell phone or tablets, either at home or at the doctor´s office – and the doctor will get the activity numbers on their screen, describes the president of EIM Norway, Terje Halvorsen. Whatever the patient has registered will blink in either red, yellow or green depending on the goals set for that patient.
The Norwegian Medical Association advocates more physical activity and is positive to the use of activity monitors. According to the medical doctor and president of the Norwegian Medical Association, Marit Hermansen, activity monitors can be a useful tool for some to achieve more movement and better health. She believes that such monitors can motivate patients to reach further by giving them objective responses to how active they are. Studies have shown that such measures, like for example the use of step counters, can increase activity levels by 20%.
At CERG we have developed PAI, a tool which will tell you how physically active you need to be to protect yourself from cardiovascular disease. It has the potential of being a useful tool for health personnel and patients in controlling and motivating them to actually doing the amount of physical activity needed for gaining health benefits.
The use of PAI featured in The Wall Street Journal.
Atefe Tari, PhD student at CERG