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Study from FSEM Fellow reveals medical students ‘not taught about exercise’

A study from a team of researchers at University College London, including FSEM Fellow Dr Richard Weiler, has found that half of medical students are not learning about the benefits of exercise despite physical inactivity being one of the main causes of chronic disease.
The study suggests that there is a “major inconsistency” in the teaching of future doctors after data showed that just 56% of medical students get the recommended education about physical activity.
Promoting exercise among patients should be important because the “majority of the population in England live largely sedentary lives”, researchers said.
After collecting data from all UK medical schools, they found that time spent teaching physical activity science is “minimal”.
“Delivery of physical activity teaching is varied across UK medical schools but, overall, was sparse or non-existent,” the authors wrote.
“There is an urgent need for physical activity teaching to have dedicated time at medical schools to equip tomorrow’s doctors with the basic knowledge, confidence and skills to promote physical activity.
“It is not clear if tomorrow’s doctors will be adequately prepared to counsel patients on physical activity behaviour change to reduce the unsustainable burden of the broad range of ‘inactivity’-related diseases.”
Dr Weiler argues that there is a focus on treatment, rather than the prevention, of disease. He explained that medical students need to be taught the right techniques to encourage behaviour change. He said “Besides doing nothing, finger-wagging is the worst thing doctors can do. They should be helping people to realise they can increase how active they are, and do so in ways they find enjoyable.”